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Spinoza prize for Cisca Wijmenga

12 June 2015
Prof. Cisca Wijmenga
Prof. Cisca Wijmenga

At NWO’s Bessensap[1] event it was announced that Cisca Wijmenga is one of four NWO[2] Spinoza prize winners for 2015.

The NWO Spinoza prize in brief

The NWO Spinoza prize is the highest award in the Netherlands science arena and can be seen as the ‘Dutch Nobel Prize’. Each year, NWO awards Spinoza prizes to three or four researchers working in the Netherlands who, according to international standards, belong at the very top of their scientific field. NWO Spinoza laureates perform ground-breaking research that has a major impact and they are a source of inspiration to younger researchers. The prize winners will each receive €2.5 million to spend on scientific research. In this way NWO aims to stimulate top research work in the Netherlands.

This year the prizes will be awarded to four scientists:

  • René Janssen, Professor of Molecular Materials and Nanosystems at TU Eindhoven
  • Birgit Meyer, Professor of Religious Studies at Utrecht University
  • Aad van der Vaart, Professor of Stochastics at Leiden University
  • Cisca Wijmenga, Professor of Human Genetics at University of Groningen

Professor Wijmenga says “This is incredibly good news for my research work, for my research group, for the many patients who have made my work possible over the past 20 years by willingly cooperating with my projects, for the UMCG and the University of Groningen, and certainly for my department! The NWO Spinoza award is not only a prize, an honour, but also primarily a huge encouragement for my further research work”.

The official presentation ceremony will be held on 14th September 2015 in the Nieuwe Kerk in The Hague.

More news on her work on coeliac disease and this award; Her personal page; Her team and work

Media items are mostly in Dutch (switch language flag at top right of this page) but this interview has English subtitles:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lGW-FvKPrkc (3:35 mins)

See also https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8FVGmr9WLA8 (only in Dutch; 4:25 mins)


[1] This annual event brings together journalists, communication officers and scientists under the motto “Science meets the press”. [2] NWO is the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research


Laudatio

Prof. Cisca Wijmenga (1964) is professor of human genetics at the University of Groningen. She is a leading researcher, both nationally and internationally, in the area of complex genetics and in particular the genetic risk factors that play a role in celiac disease, a chronic intestinal disorder. She has identified the risk genes for this disease and also developed a reliable, simple and cost-effective method of testing for these risk genes. Previously, she conducted similar research on genetic defects in type 2 diabetes and leukaemia. Wijmenga’s work is highly interdisciplinary in nature. She successfully applies insights from molecular genetics, immunology, epidemiology and bioinformatics to her research.

As a scientist, Wijmenga uses many state-of-the-art techniques. In 2004, she was one of the pioneers to chart the whole human genome (genome-wide association study), in order to identify genetic risk factors for different diseases. This work led to the revolutionary insight that there is genetic overlap between celiac disease and other autoimmune diseases that initially seemed very different. Wijmenga highlighted the importance of identifying genes for different diseases and is considered to be a world authority in this area.

Wijmenga studied biology at the University of Groningen. In 1993, she obtained her doctorate with honours at Leiden University. Wijmenga was appointed professor at the University of Groningen at the young age of 42. She was awarded a prestigious ERC Advanced Grant from the European Union in 2012 for her research on gluten intolerance and sensitivity. She is also director of BBMRI-NL2.0, the Dutch project for biobank collaboration, which stores tissue samples and data from patients and healthy people. Wijmenga has been a member of the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences since 2012. She was recently involved in a project entitled ‘Genome of the Netherlands’, in which she mapped the historic development of the Dutch population through large-scale genetic analysis. She is also highly active internationally, as a member of Academia Europaea (since 2013) and as a distinguished visitor to the Harvard Medical School (Boston). In 2014, she was among the top 1% most-cited scientists on the Web of Science.

In addition to being an internationally renowned scientist, Wijmenga is also an accomplished and skilled ambassador of science, who likes to convey her insights to the public at large. For the Noorderzon Performing Arts Festival in Groningen, she and her team of ‘DNA sleuths’ developed the successful DNA bar, where visitors could isolate their DNA and take it home with them in a pendant.

Cisca Wijmenga was nominated by the Rector of the University of Groningen and the Chair of the Dutch Network of Women Professors.

More about her career
and her work at www.systemsgenetics.nl/group/wijmenga/ ; www.rug.nl/research/genetics/research/multifactorialdiseases/

About NWO

The Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO) ensures quality and innovation in science and facilitates its impact on society. Its main task is to fund scientific research at public research institutions in the Netherlands, especially universities. In total, NWO invests some €650 million annually in curiosity-driven research and in research into challenges facing society. It stimulates the national and international cooperation of both researchers and institutions, invests in large-scale facilities, encourages the use and distribution of knowledge, and runs several research institutes. It is currently financing more than 5,600 research projects. NWO covers all scientific disciplines and fields of research. The funds are allocated by means of national competition on the basis of quality and independent assessment and selection procedures. NWO contributes to various elements of Dutch national science and innovation policy.

www.nwo.nl/; www.nwo.nl/en/about-nwo/what+does+nwo+do

Last modified:30 November 2015 1.58 p.m.
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