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Jaroslav Koča, founder of CEITEC, passed away

The prominent structural biologist and founder of the Central European Institute of Technology (CEITEC), prof. RNDr. Jaroslav Koča, DrSc., has died aged 65.  

prof. RNDr. Jaroslav Koča, DrSc.

The academic and scientific career of Prof. Jaroslav Koča was closely linked with Masaryk University, first with its Faculty of Science and later with CEITEC, where he served in several leading roles. He was also the founder and long-time director of the National Centre for Biomolecular Research at the Faculty of Science.

During his professional life as a scientist, Jaroslav Koča published over 200 original scientific papers in international journals and supervised more than 40 doctoral students and postdocs. He worked on a long-term basis in a number of international institutions in countries such as Norway, France and the United States. He led several large Czech and international scientific projects with budgets exceeding tens or even hundreds of millions of crowns. In 1995, he became a full professor at Masaryk University in the field of organic chemistry. He held several prominent senior positions: from 2015 he served as the Scientific Director of CEITEC, in 2016 he was appointed by the Czech Government as a board member of the Czech Science Foundation and, from December 2020, he served as its President.

Martin Bareš, rector of Masaryk University, issued the following statement: “I am deeply saddened by the news of Professor Koča’s passing. Masaryk University has lost an outstanding scientist who made significant and indisputable contributions to the development of excellent science at our University. I had the opportunity to work closely with Professor Koča when I served as Vice-Rector for Development and I respected him immensely as an expert and as a person. May he rest in peace.”

The Dean of the Faculty of Science, Tomáš Kašparovský, also responded to Professor Koča’s death: “Professor Koča was an important figure at the Faculty of Science and his passing is a huge blow for us. He was a visionary whose unwavering interest in science and teaching helped pioneer new research and educational directions. Although his work extended to the entire university and, eventually, the whole country, he was still actively involved with the Faculty in discussions about its further development. I have always valued his helpful suggestions within the broader Dean’s Board and the Faculty’s Scientific Board. He will be sorely missed.”

Jiří Nantl, the current Director of CEITEC, also released a statement: “It is hard for me to believe that Professor Koča is no longer with us. I knew him as a person of unbridled energy who was always looking forward. At the peak of his scientific career, he took the bold step of betting on a new, then very uncertain project that would later grow into CEITEC and thus decisively contributed to its establishment. He belonged to a great generation that has moved Czech science forward by leaps and bounds over the past twenty years.”