Academy Beijerinck Premium awarded to original thinker in virology

25 January 2022

This year the Academy is awarding the Beijerinck Premium to Tessa Quax (born in 1986). Quax is receiving the Beijerinck Premium for her original virological research. The jury particularly praised her research on archaeal viruses. The research helps to clarify the origin and evolution of all viruses.

Pioneering research

Archaeal viruses play an important role in the evolution of life and are the precursors of eukaryotes. Archaea are unicellular organisms found in the most diverse places in the world, for example in hot geysers or in the human intestine. Unlike bacteria and eukaryotes, we know of no pathogenic archaea. Because the study of archaeal viruses is therefore independent of disease processes, it can focus on the role of all viruses in ecosystems and evolution. Quax gained insights into the virus-host dynamics of archaea through her research. She is one of the few pioneers worldwide who is trying to unravel infection and spread mechanisms of archaeal viruses. Her findings have direct implications for theories on the evolution of viruses and archaea, and are important for creating a complete picture of what viruses are, what they do and where they come from. Quax's unique research makes an important contribution to the development of this field.

Connecting viruses

After obtaining her doctorate, Quax worked in Leuven and at the University of Freiburg. She is now associate professor at the Groningen Biomolecular Sciences and Biotechnology Institute at the University of Groningen. She also holds various positions in international collective industrial organisations. Through these organisations, Quax connects researchers within the larger research field of viruses of micro-organisms. She sees this as an important personal task. She enthusiastically promotes the cooperation and involvement of young researchers. In her outreach activities, Quax shows that there are many different viruses that need to be distinguished from each other. She wants to make it clear that many viruses have a lasting relationship with their hosts, are an intrinsic part of life and even have positive effects on their hosts by changing their metabolism or protecting them from other viruses. Quax explains transparently how viruses keep ecosystems (such as the human microbiome) healthy and therefore stimulate the evolution of species.

Academy Beijerinck Premium recognition

The Academy Beijerinck Premium will be presented on 3 March 2022 during the Dutch Annual Virology Symposium from the Trippenhuis Building. Quax will give a brief lecture on her work. The Academy Beijerinck Premium is awarded annually to a young researcher who is conducting outstanding virus-related research at a Dutch research institution. The Beijerinck Premium is made possible by the Academy’s M.W. Beijerinck – Virology Fund. The Fund was established by Mr and Ms L.E. den Dooren de Jong in memory of the virologist Martinus Willem Beijerinck. The premium is EUR 25,000, which the recipient can spend on virus-related research.