The Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences (KNAW) has awarded the 2014 Dr A.H. Heineken Prize for Medicine (200,000 USD) to professor Kari Alitalo, Academy Professor for the Molecular Biology of Cancer at the University of Helsinki (Finland).
Professor Alitalo is receiving the prize for his pioneering research on how and when lymph and blood vessels grow, and how that knowledge could help us find interventions to treat cancer and other diseases.
Prof. Kari Alitalo was born in Kuopio (Finland) in 1952. As a young man, his ambition to advance medical practice made him decide against studying maths. He ended up studying medicine at the University of Helsinki, the same institution in which he obtained his Ph.D. in 1980.
After spending about five years in the west coast of the U.S., where he worked with famous scientists like Michael Bishop and Harold Varmus, he returned to Helsinki in 1986.
In 1993, Alitalo was named Academy Professor of Molecular Biology of Cancer by the University of Helsinki.
Since 2013, Alitalo has been Director of the Wihuri Research Institute, a private institute founded in 1944 to study vascular biology and diseases of vascular systems. He also leads a Centre of Excellence in translational cancer research at the University of Helsinki.
Alitalo ranks among the most-cited cancer and cell biology researchers in Europe. With more than 550 published papers to his name, he has been cited more than 55,000 times.
He is member of the Academy of Europe and the Swedish Royal Academy of Sciences, and foreign member of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences. He has been awarded many prestigious prizes, including the Prix Leopold Griffuel (France), the Louis-Jeantet Prize for medicine (Switzerland) and the InBev-Baillet Latour Health Prize (Belgium).