Torsten Schwede appointed as new President of the SNSF Research Council from 2025

© SNF | Adrian Moser

Matthias Egger's term as Research Council President comes to an end in December 2024. He will be succeeded in January 2025 by Torsten Schwede, renowned bioinformatician and current Vice President for Research at Basel University.

The Research Council consists of highly qualified researchers from universities and other institutions. It is primarily responsible for evaluating the applications that are submitted to the SNSF. Matthias Egger, an epidemiologist at the University of Bern, has headed this body with great success since 2017. At the end of 2024, he will have reached the end of his maximum term of office of eight years. The SNSF Foundation Council has already appointed his successor: Torsten Schwede, Professor of Bioinformatics and current Vice President for Research at the University of Basel, will chair the Research Council from January 2025.

Wide-ranging experience

Torsten Schwede has excellent qualifications for his new role: a long-standing and renowned scientist, he is very familiar with the challenges posed by research. As Vice President for Research at the University of Basel, he is familiar both with the needs of various disciplines and with the institutional perspective of a university. And as a current member of the SNSF Foundation Council, he has dealt intensively with the strategic issues of research funding. "I am very much looking forward to this task. The research landscape, and with it the SNSF, are facing major challenges. I would like to use my experience to help the SNSF master its challenges, together with researchers and scientific organisations," says Torsten Schwede.

Role in restructuring

Why choose a president at such an early stage? The SNSF revised its Statutes in 2023 and is now gradually implementing the changes. In 2025, the Research Council will be given more strategic competencies, reduced in size and headed by an Academic Board. Work on this will begin in 2024. Jürg Stahl, Chairman of the Foundation Council: "Due to the reorganisation, we have already chosen Matthias Egger's successor. Torsten Schwede will thus be able to support this work as of 2024 and help determine the composition of the future Academic Board. He will then assume the presidency of the Research Council in January 2025, thereby ensuring a smooth transition from the previous to the new president."

The SNSF is Switzerland's foremost research funding organisation. Every year, it invests around 1 billion francs in research projects and in the careers of young researchers.

"The SNSF is essential to the success of Swiss research"

Torsten Schwede, what is your motivation for taking on the role of President of the SNSF Research Council?

During my scientific career, I have come to appreciate the SNSF as the central institution for research funding in Switzerland. I know of no other funding organisation in the world with which researchers identify so strongly.

However, the research landscape, and with it the SNSF, are facing major challenges. For example, tighter budgets and higher costs could limit development options at higher education institutions and reduce the SNSF’s scope for action in research funding. Political changes jeopardise international cooperation. The methods of artificial intelligence raise fundamental questions about how science sees its role. And many of the problems facing society today can only be solved with interdisciplinary approaches and close cooperation between research and politics. I would like to use my experience to help the SNSF master its challenges, together with researchers and scientific organisations.

What makes the SNSF so important for Swiss research?

Switzerland regularly achieves top positions in international rankings for research and innovation. The SNSF's support for outstanding projects in all disciplines, developed bottom-up by the researchers, is essential for this success. In particular, the strong basic research funded by the SNSF is geared to the long term and provides a foundation for ground-breaking discoveries – which in turn are a starting point for successful innovation.

Professor of Bioinformatics and Vice President for Research

Torsten Schwede is Professor of Structural Bioinformatics at the University of Basel and head of a research group at the SIB Swiss Institute of Bioinformatics. As Vice President for Research at the University of Basel since 2018, his responsibilities have included promoting early-career researchers, internationalisation and digital research infrastructures.

After studying chemistry in Bayreuth and Freiburg im Breisgau, Torsten Schwede completed his doctorate with a dissertation on protein crystallography, followed by a postdoctorate at GlaxoSmithKline in Geneva. He has been teaching and doing research in structural bioinformatics at the University of Basel since 2001. His work focuses on the modelling of protein structures. Such models are used, for example, in the development of active pharmaceutical ingredients. Torsten Schwede is a member of international scientific advisory boards and will represent the University of Basel on the SNSF Foundation Council until the end of 2023.