Tribute to Werner Risau
December 18, 1953–December 13, 1998
From 1995 to 1998, Werner Risau was Chairman of the European Vascular Biology Association (EVBA), which for many years has been closely associated with Arteriosclerosis, Thrombosis, and Vascular Biology. As the current officers of the EVBA board, we have had the privilege of working closely with Werner, both on scientific as well as administrative matters. In addition, we have collaborated extensively with Werner on various scientific projects.
Very early on in his brilliant career, it became clear that Werner had some very strong (usually correct) ideas about the mechanisms of angiogenesis, often in contradiction to established dogma. One of the most notable was his insistence, shortly after the discovery of VEGF, that bFGF is not the most important angiogenic factor and that it may in fact only play a minor (if any) role in the endogenous regulation of this process. Although the FGF saga continues despite a large amount of negative data, it is fair to say that Werner’s intuition is proving to be correct. More recently, Werner insisted that angiopoietin 1 is involved not only in regulating vessel wall assembly but also in the process of capillary sprouting. Once again, his intuition is proving to be correct. One of Werner’s hallmarks was his ability to conduct science in a collaborative manner, often involving several investigators and laboratories to solve an important problem. His dedication to deliver high-quality research has been a consistent feature of his scientific career. Many researchers, both established experts as well as young newcomers to the field of angiogenesis, have benefited enormously from Werner’s concise and clear, yet critical and creative reviews.
In addition to being an outstanding scientist, Werner was a leader in the organization for vascular biology in Europe, the EVBA. Here, as in science, his leadership was low-key but precise and guided by fair and honest principles. As secretary and subsequently chairman of the EVBA, he oversaw the organization of a series of successful meetings on vascular biology and ensured that European vascular biologists have a natural meeting point in the EVBA.
Werner will be missed for his clear, concise, and courteous manner with respect to both his field of research as well as administrative matters. He was able to stimulate and help vascular biologists, in Europe and elsewhere, both as a scientist and as chairman of the EVBA. Unfortunately for us, he takes with him his immense and well-organized knowledge, together with a rare capacity to maintain perspective.⇓