Italian and Swedish researchers win richest Swiss science prize

An immunologist and a vascular biologist were recipients of the prize Keystone
This content was published on January 23, 2018 - 18:00

The Louis-Jeantet Prize for Medicine has been awarded to Antonio Lanzavecchia from the Swiss-Italian University and Christer Betsholtz from the University of Uppsala in Sweden. They will each receive CHF700,000 ($728,221), of which CHF625,000 must be spent on research. 

Established in 1986, the prize recognises excellence in European biomedical research. The main fields covered include physiology, biophysics, structural biology, biochemistry, cellular and molecular biology, developmental biology and genetics. Only researchers active in the Council of Europe member countries are eligible for the prize. 

Lanzavecchia, an immunologist and director of the Institute for Biomedicine Research in Bellinzona, won for his contribution to the understanding of the immune response in humans, and for the detection of antibodies that effectively neutralise various infectious agents. 

According to the Louis-Jeantet Foundation, he will use the prize money to continue his research on the characterisation of the mechanism for antibody diversification. 

The other winner, Betsholtz, is also the director of the Director of the Karolinska Institute’s Integrated Cardio Metabolic Centre in Stockholm, Sweden. He has been recognised for his fundamental discoveries in vascular biology, including the characterisation of specialised cells - pericytes - and their role in vascular development and permeability. Betsholtz will use the prize money to continue the study of blood vessels in the central nervous system and to better understand their role in normal and pathological processes. 

The awards ceremony will take place on April 25 in Geneva. Since its inception, the Louis-Jeantet Prize has been awarded to 90 researchers, including 16 from Switzerland. Ten of them were subsequently awarded the Nobel Prize for Medicine or Chemistry. 

The Louis-Jeantet Foundation, created in 1982, is the legacy of Louis Jeantet, a Geneva-based French businessman who made his fortune in the automotive industry. Its mission is to advance medicine and it annually grants around CHF4.2 million to support biomedical research.

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