Every five years, the Research Foundation Flanders (FWO) awards the prestigious Excellence Prizes to eminent Flemish researchers with a distinguished career in science. In 2020, two VIB researchers working at Ghent University have received this important recognition for their outstanding scientific career and dedication to research: Prof. Bart Lambrecht (VIB-UGent Center for Inflammation Research) and prof. Wout Boerjan (VIB-UGent Center for Plant Systems Biology).
The FWO Excellence Prizes, awarded once every five years, are meant to acknowledge individual Flemish researchers who have built distinguished careers in science. Candidates are externally nominated, and five external experts provide their recommendations to the seven-headed jury.
The Excellence Prize is one of the highest honors that can be bestowed upon a researcher in Flanders. VIB is extraordinarily proud to share that two of its principal investigators have been awarded an Excellence Prize.
Jo Bury, managing director of VIB, frames this achievement: “The FWO Excellence Prizes recognize absolute world-class leaders for their landmark contributions to science. We are proud that two VIB PIs receive that honorable recognition.”
Excellent VIB research at Ghent University
Prof. Bart Lambrecht (VIB-UGent Center for Inflammation Research) receives the Joseph Maisin Excellence Prize in fundamental biomedical sciences for his outstanding work in studying the function of the immune system in various lung diseases like asthma and viral infections. As a lung doctor and basic scientist, Prof. Lambrecht is one of the very few clinicians who bridge the gap between fundamental immunology and applications in patients. In doing so, his work on the basic mechanisms of inflammatory diseases has led to several new drug candidates.
Prof. Lambrecht says, “I am very proud of this award, which is the result of years of hard work by a very dedicated team of colleagues at VIB and Ghent University, supported by a good research and Biotech climate in Flanders, which can compete with the best in the world.”
Prof. Wout Boerjan (VIB-UGent Center for Plant Systems Biology) is given the Doctor A. De Leeuw-Damry-Bourlart Excellence Prize in applied sciences for his groundbreaking research on the biosynthesis, polymerization and structure of lignin, which provides the fundamental knowledge that is necessary to breed, or engineer, plant cell walls that are easier to convert to fermentable sugars or building blocks for the chemical industries. By leveraging his fundamental research findings to field trials with poplars, Prof. Boerjan’s research is seminal in advancing the progress towards the use of plant biomass instead of fossil resources, paving the way for a sustainable bio-economy.
Prof. Boerjan says: “I am honored to receive this award, which would not have been possible without the great efforts of my team and the excellent research environment provided by VIB and Ghent University. In addition, it is great that my team can contribute to achieving a more sustainable society.”