media release

Akzo Nobel Science Award for Professor Berns

Press Release - The Board of the Royal Holland Society of Sciences and Humanities has announced that the winner of the Akzo Nobel Science Award 2002 is Professor A.J.M. Berns, scientific director and chairman of the Board of Management of the Dutch Cancer Institute/Antoni van Leeuwenhoek Hospital and Extraordinary Professor of Experimental Genetics of Congenital Diseases at the University of Amsterdam.

Arnhem, the Netherlands, July 3, 2002 – The Board of the Royal Holland Society of Sciences and Humanities (Hollandsche Maatschappij der Wetenschappen) has announced that the winner of the Akzo Nobel Science Award 2002 is Professor A.J.M. Berns, scientific director and chairman of the Board of Management of the Dutch Cancer Institute / Antoni van Leeuwenhoek Hospital and Extraordinary Professor of Experimental Genetics of Congenital Diseases at the University of Amsterdam.

Prof. Berns will officially accept the award – given for his research in the field of experimental genetics, in particular fundamental cancer research and molecular immunology – on Thursday, November 7, during a formal ceremony at Akzo Nobel’s headquarters in Arnhem. The Akzo Nobel Science Award, which carries prize money of EUR 50,000, is now in its 32nd year.

In the opinion of the jury, Prof. Berns is one of the most prolific and respected researchers in the field of experimental genetics in the world. His introduction of genetic modification of test animals in the Netherlands has led to a series of important findings in fundamental cancer research and molecular immunology. Prof. Berns has focused on the development of mouse tumor models, which are better suited to testing new forms of cancer therapy than existing animal models.

Prof. Berns studied chemistry in Nijmegen, the Netherlands, and obtained a cum laude doctoral degree in biochemistry for a thesis written under the supervision of Prof. H. Bloemendal. He spent the next two years at the Salk Institute in the United States, where he was involved in the first biochemical tests using transgenic mice. On his return to Nijmegen he concentrated on retroviruses and identified new cancer genes.

In 1985 he moved his research group to the Dutch Cancer Institute, where he made several remarkable discoveries concerning the transformation of ordinary cells into cancer cells. He now enjoys a worldwide reputation for developing mouse models for the study of cancer. These models form a decisive factor in research into the effect of flaws in hereditary material (DNA) on the development of cancer. Major progress in this field means that tumors developed by these mice increasingly resemble those of humans. The new generation of animal models should enable a better understanding of specific characteristics of tumors and more accurate testing of treatment methods.

Prof. Berns’ international reputation is measured by the quality of his exceptional list of publications. Many of his 200 or so scientific articles have been published in leading magazines such as Cell, Nature, EMBO Journal, PNAS, and Genes & Development, while he has also been involved in numerous collaborative projects with top researchers in Europe, Japan, and the United States. Prof. Berns previous honors for cancer research include the Prix Antoine de Lacassagne of the Ligue Française contre le Cancer.

This year’s jury consisted of Professors S. Daan, G. Holstegge, D.K.F. Meijer, and R.H.A. Plasterk, as well as a member of the board and the sciences secretary of the Royal Holland Society of Sciences and Humanities. The jury believes that the presentation of the Akzo Nobel Science Award to Professor Berns represents a fitting tribute to his scientific work.

The presentation of the Akzo Nobel Science Award alternates each year between the Netherlands and Sweden. Last year, professors Bengt Kasemo and Ingemar Lundström received the award in Stockholm for their major scientific contributions in the multidisciplinary field of surface studies.

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