Edze Westra

Dr E.R. Westra (32) is a research fellow at the Environment and Sustainability Institute and a member of the Biosciences department in the College of Life and Environmental Sciences, University of Exeter (United Kingdom). He is receiving the 2016 Heineken Young Scientists Award for Biochemistry and Biophysics for his cross-disciplinary study of CRISPR-Cas, a natural adaptive immune system in bacteria.

Edze Westra studied molecular life sciences at Wageningen University, where he obtained his PhD in microbiology in 2013. He has received awards for his doctoral thesis from both the Netherlands Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology and the Netherlands Society for Medical Microbiology. Shortly after completing his PhD, he accepted a position at the University of Exeter, where a number of major grants ensured him a permanent appointment in 2015.


Westra is a rising star in the fast-growing field of CRISPR-Cas, a molecular system in bacteria that allows them to recognise and disable viral DNA. It is now also being used for precision genome editing in living organisms.

Edze Westra is studying the role of the CRISPR-Cas system in nature. His research combines structural, biochemical, biophysical, evolutionary and ecological aspects, all of which are usually pursued within separate subdisciplines.

He has published or co-published many highly cited articles in such prestigious journals as Science and Nature. In addition to an EU Marie Curie research grant, he has received major stipends from the UK’s Natural Environment Research Council and the Wellcome Trust.

His enthusiasm is infectious and inspired the majority of his students to pursue a career in science. He is also a passionate ambassador for science with the general public.

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