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Award winner – AZ Foundation & KAGB/ARMB


The AstraZeneca Foundation has awarded Prof. Cédric Blanpain (ULB) the Price for Biomedical Research 2019. The Belgian scientist has been granted with 50 000 Euros for its research on cancer and stem cells.

With this award, the AstraZeneca Foundation fulfils one of its main objectives, namely supporting and stimulating scientific research with the aim of finding practical applications for the most recent discoveries in basic research.
This is not only important for researchers, but it also brings benefits to patients who can benefit from better treatment, better diagnosis and innovative technology.

The laureate was elected by a joint jury composed of Académie Royale de Médecine de Belgique (ARMB) and Koninklijke Academie voor Geneeskunde van België (KAGB).

“Knowing that the microbiome is the main trigger for inflammatory bowel diseases is a huge step to finding a definitive cure for those diseases”

The jury has awarded Prof. dr. Séverine Vermeire, who is leading the care program Inflammatory Bowel Diseases at the Universitair Hospitaal Leuven. Furthermore, she is also part-time professor at the Faculty of Medicine of the KU Leuven and is the department's chair of the Department of Chronic Diseases, Metabolism and Aging. Her work shows that she plays a leading role in the (inter)national research on pathogenesis of inflammatory bowel diseases (genetics and microbiome) and development and improvement (immunogenicity) of novel therapeutic options.

Prof. dr. Séverine Vermeire and her team received the AstraZeneca Foundation Award 2017 for their studies on the genetic susceptibility and role of the microbial in IBD and for their contribution to the identification of new loci and microbial factors in patients. Their research led to the concept of functional characterization of IBD through omics integration. This ground-breaking research project represents a significant breakthrough in the field of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) and has high potential for future understanding of the mechanisms involved in the emergence of these multifactorial disorders, bringing us one step closer to definitive cure for these diseases.

“We have seen significant improvements in drug use when clinical pharmacists are integrated into hospital geriatric teams”

The use of drugs is an essential component of the care of the elderly. However, so-called inappropriate prescriptions - over-prescriptions, sub-prescriptions or inappropriate prescriptions - are frequent. They lead to increased morbidity, decreased quality of life and increased costs.

Prof. Spinewine (UCL) and her team are rewarded with the Healthy Ageing Award for exploring the reasons behind inappropriate prescriptions and finding new methods for drug prescription that will significantly improve the correct use of drugs.

Prof. Spinewine is a professor at the Catholic University of Louvain and is a member of the Louvain Drug Research Institute. She is also the head of the clinical pharmacy department of UCL Namur University Hospital, in Godinne.

“Our objective is to increase the applicability of immunotherapy as a successful treatment for cancer”

Cancer immunotherapy has been a breakthrough in treating cancer. Despite this discovery, immunotherapy unfortunately has few positive effects on the majority of patients in need of new treatment options, nor does it affect many patients with types of tumors that respond well to immunotherapy

The jury decided to grant the 2017 AstraZeneca Foundation award for Oncology to Prof. Evelien Smits for her research on the development of new immunotherapeutic combination strategies to treat solid tumors and to decipher the tumor immune system to better understand immune escape mechanisms. Her research will improve the applicability of immunotherapy as a successful treatment for cancer, both in terms of the number of susceptible cancer types and the number of susceptible patients.

In addition of being team leader and co-director of the Oncology Research Center (CORE) at the University of Antwerp, Prof. Evelien Smits is a board member of the Young Belgian Academy and a member of the Cancer Immunotherapy Association. She is also appointed expert on the Superior Health Council and is the only Belgian member of the Lancet Hematology International Advisory Committee.

“Deciphering the cellular and molecular bases of human polymicrogyria”

The cerebral cortex corresponds to the external part of the brain and it plays key roles in sophisticated cognitive and perceptual abilities such as memory, awareness, language, and consciousness. The mature cerebral cortex is a layered structure resulting from the migration of temporal cohorts of neurons that are generated by cortical stem cells that divide during embryogenesis. Disrupting the birth, migration or survival of these neurons can lead to cortical malformations (MCDs) often associated with intellectual disabilities and epilepsy.

Prof. Dr. Laurent Nguyen (ULG) received the AstraZeneca Foundation Award 2014 in the research category Neurosciences and Psychiatry for the research on the pathological mechanisms triggered by the mutation of new genes associated with honopolymicrogyria. This research focuses on the cellular and molecular mechanisms that drive corticogenesis in health and disease. Current, additional research focuses on selected inheritable mutations that are tightly associated with polymicrogyria (PMGs), one prevalent MCD characterized by abnormal cortical layering with an excessive number of small and irregular gyri at the cortical surface. Various technical approaches and animal models will be combined to decipher the pathological mechanisms that underlie human PMGs. The identification of novel genes whose mutation lead to PMG is not only important for diagnosis and genetic counselling of patients and their families, but also for a better understanding of the molecular processes of cerebral cortical development.

Professor Laurent Nguyen

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Prof. Cédric Blanpain

Prof. Cédric Blanpain


Biomedical Scientific Research Award