Hans Clevers wins prestigious new science prize

20 February 2013

KNAW president Hans Clevers is one of the winners of the new Breakthrough Prize in Life Sciences. The prize rewards excellence in medical research. Eleven winners will each receive USD 3 million. The prize was established by some of the most successful entrepreneurs of recent decades, who regard it as the Nobel Prize of the 21st century.

About the prize

The prize is the brain child of Art Levinson (Apple, Genentech), Sergey Brin (Google), Mark Zuckerberg (Facebook), Russian Internet investor Yuri Milner and others. It will henceforth be awarded annually to five scientists after a transparent selection process. The selection committee will be made up of all former prize-winners, and anyone online can nominate candidates. The prize differs from the Nobel Prize in these and other ways. For example, researchers are not required to wait dozens of years before being recognised for their breakthrough, and the prize can be awarded to groups of researchers or to the same researcher twice. Last year, Yuri Milner distributed a similar award – the Fundamental Physics Prize – to Stephen Hawking, Edward Witten, and the teams that discovered the Higgs boson. The Breakthrough Prize in Life Sciences will be presented in New York in August.

About Hans Clevers

Hans_Clevers_Foto_Henk_Thomas.jpgProf. Hans Clevers (born in 1957) studies the intestine, in both its healthy and diseased state. He has discovered that there are numerous similarities between the normal process of intestinal tissue renewal and the development of intestinal cancer. Clevers has described the molecular signalling pathways that are disrupted by cancer and discovered a protein that is specific to stem cells in the intestines. He subsequently succeeded in growing “mini-intestines” from individual stem cells. In January, Clevers achieved a breakthrough when he discovered the liver stem cell. A better understanding of the development of cancer is vital to the quest for new cancer treatment methods. Clevers’ research makes the possibility of regenerative medicine more realistic. Hans Clevers is Professor of Molecular Genetics at the UMCU and conducts research at the Academy’s Hubrecht Institute. He was the Institute’s Director until June 2012, when he became President of the Academy. Clevers has won numerous prizes for his research, including the Heineken Prize for Medicine last year.