Beijerinck Prizes for influenza research

18 December 2014

Peter Palese, the pioneer of modern influenza research, has been awarded the Academy’s Beijerinck Virology Prize (EUR 35,000). Palese is head of the microbiology department at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York. In addition, the Academy is awarding the Beijerinck Premium (EUR 25,000) this year to Debby van Riel of the Erasmus MC in Rotterdam, who researches the way in which influenza viruses use the olfactory nerve to reach the brain.

Beijerinck Virology Prize

The Austrian-born Peter Palese (1946) may be considered the founding father of modern research into influenza viruses. He researches the way in which viruses multiply and the precise nature of how they make people and animals sick.

Peter Palese was the first to map out the various types of influenza genetically and he laid the foundations for the antiviral medicines now used worldwide. He was first in developing the reverse genetics technology for influenza viruses in 1990. Palese is also known for his research into the 1918 Spanish influenza virus, which he was able to reconstruct with his colleagues. His most recent research targets a universal influenza vaccine to offer protection in the case of epidemics and pandemics. Peter Palese studied in Vienna where he was awarded a doctorate. Since 1971, he has been on the staff of the Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York. He became a full professor at the age of 33 and has since trained a whole new generation of virus researchers.

Beijerinck Premium

The Beijerinck Premium, which is intended for a young virology researcher at a Dutch university, has been awarded this year to Debby van Riel (1976), who has received a VENI scholarship to perform research at the Viroscience department of the Erasmus MC. Influenza viruses in the nasal cavity use the olfactory nerve as a shortcut to the brain, where they can cause inflammations. Debby van Riel is investigating how the viruses are able to do so and how they multiply in the brain. Moreover, she is researching whether that route via the olfactory nerve can be blocked.

Presentation ceremony

The Beijerinck prizes will be awarded on the afternoon of Friday 6 March 2015 during the Dutch Annual Virology Symposium, at the Academy headquarters in Amsterdam. The prize winners will be using the occasion to deliver a brief lecture.

About the Beijerinck Prizes

The Beijerinck Prizes are awarded by the M.W. Virology Fund, established in 1965 by a bequest made to the Academy in honour of Martinus Willem Beijerinck (1851-1931), who discovered the virus.