Thursday October 15th 2020



Each year, European Molecular Biology Organization (EMBO) awards a Gold Medal to outstanding young researchers in the life sciences for outstanding contributions to the field. In 2020, Prof. Sarah-Maria Fendt (VIB-KU Leuven Center for Cancer Biology) receives the prestigious award.

Supporting excellence

EMBO is a professional organization of more than 1,800 life scientists. Its goal is to promote research in the life sciences and enable international exchange between scientists. EMBO is well-know for supporting young scientist who are advancing the fields. 

Therefore, the organization's members, all distinguished scientists, annually select an independent principal investigator to be awarded EMBO's Gold Medal. This award is a recognition of the fact that young independent principal investigators play a major role in building a strong research environment. 

This year, Prof. Sarah-Maria Fendt (VIB-KU Leuven Center for Cancer Biology) has been awarded EMBO's Gold Medal for her innovative work on cancer metastasis. EMBO selects two recipients of the award annually, and prof. Fendt shares the award with prof. Markus Ralser (Francis Crick Institute, UK & Charité - Universitätsmedizin Berlin, Germany), who works on the elucidation of metabolic network functionality at the genomic scale.

Metastasis as metabolic disease

Prof. Sarah-Maria Fendt and her team have reconceptualized cancer metastasis as metabolic disease. The realization that metastasizing cells have to dynamically change their cellular traits during disease progression led to the innovative idea that these cells may have metabolic vulnerabilities. Exploiting these vulnerabilities could lead to new therapeutic approaches to prevent cancer metastasis.

Prof. Fendt has a Master's degree in Biochemistry from TU Munich and a PhD in Molecular Systems Biology from ETH Zurich. She worked has postdoc at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), before joining VIB as an independent principal investigator.

Upon hearing of the award, she said: "I am very excited and happy to receive this award. The recognition of our work highlights the importance of metabolism for understanding and treating diseases such as cancer. Moreover, I hope it inspires junior researchers and in particular women to follow the path of science."