Jost Gebhard Koch

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1928 - 2013
Professor Dr. med. Jost Gebhard Koch, died on Saturday March 9, 2013, in Hamburg, Germany where he had lived in retirement. He was 84. He delighted in participating in a wondrous half century of scientific advances in molecular biology.

Gebhard was born on May 19, 1928 in Sulzbach, Germany (now Herressen-Sulzbach). He met his future wife Maria-Luise at the University of Heidelberg Medical School, where they graduated in 1951. Gebhard joined a legion of physicians drawn to the emerging discipline of molecular biology as a post doctoral fellow studying bacteriophages with Wolfhard Weidel and Georg Melchers at the Max Planck Institute of Biology in Tübingen and went on to become a prominent figure in defining the molecular biology of the polio virus.

In 1957-1959, the couple emigrated with their two sons to the United States where he worked in the labs of Hattie Alexander at Columbia University and Alexander Hershey at the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratories. From 1965-1966 the family and now four children moved again to the United States where he worked at the NIH along side J Michael Bishop, who then joined Gebhard at the Heinrich Pette Institute of Virology in Hamburg. During his third term in the US from 1970-1976, he was a senior scientist at the Roche Institute of Molecular Biology in Nutley, NJ.

Gebhard returned to Hamburg to head the Department of Molecular Biology at the University of Hamburg Medical School in 1976. Here, he spearheaded the creation of the Postgraduate Study Program in Molecular Biology, the Blankenese Conferences, and the Center for Molecular Neurobiology. The students he inspired continue to pursue research in labs across the globe. Throughout his career, he was inquisitive to a unique breadth and depth, forever questioning in pursuit of knowledge and skeptical of any proposed dogmas.

Gebhard had numerous hobbies and interests outside of science. He loved traveling, collected classic Mercedes, became adept at home repair in his children's homes and supported numerous non-profits, including gathering support for the "Freundeskreis des UKE" and their awards for Hamburg's brightest young scientists. Above all, he loved spending time with his grandchildren who were drawn to his charm and youthful exuberance.

He leaves a loving family, his wife of 60 years, Maria-Luise, four children Richard, Friedrich, Johannes, and Andrea, and seven grandchildren Henriette, Charlotte, Kolja, Marilu, Mikaela, Alexandra and Joshua.

A memorial service will be held on Monday, April 8 at 11AM at the Kapelle 11 on the Friedhof Hamburg-Ohlsdorf. Instead of flowers, contributions can be made to the „Freundes- und Förderkreis des UKE e.V." (Friends and Supporters of the University Medical Center in Hamburg) BIC/SWIFT: DRES DEFF 200; IBAN: DE10 2008 0000 0931 3606 00, keyword: Gebhard Koch award.
Published in The New York Times from Mar. 17 to Mar. 23, 2013