The Olav Thon Foundation’s International Research Award for 2017 is given to Jan Hoeijmakers
The Olav Thon Foundation’s International Research Award (5 million NOK) will be handed out in the University Aula on March 2, 2017. This year’s awardee is Professor Jan Hoeijmakers, Erasmus University.
Professor Jan Hoeijmakers (born 1951) is professor of genetics at the Erasmus Medical Centre (MC), Rotterdam, The Netherlands, where he defended his Ph.D.-thesis in 1982. He was made associate professor in genetics, Erasmus MC, Rotterdam, 1985, professor in 1989 and is since 1995 professor and chair of Molecular Genetics: Dept. of Genetics, and since 2008 Chairman of the EMC Biomedical Research Theme. He has received a number of prestigious awards, including the Louis Jeantet Prize for Medical Research, the Descartes-Huygens Award for French-Dutch scientific collaborations, Koningin Wilhelmina Research Prize of the Dutch Cancer Society, the EC-Descartes award, and the Mendel Medal, among many others. Dr. Hoeijmakers has mentored more than 50 Ph.D. students and as many postdoctoral fellows, and several of his students have established their own groups at a high international level. He is a member of EMBO and the Royal Academy of Sciences in The Netherlands, is editorial board member of distinguished international journals of molecular biology and is a frequently invited and highly appreciated speaker at abundant international conferences. His outstanding research contributions in the molecular biology of disease through seminal discoveries in DNA repair are recognized worldwide.
A complex DNA repair system ensures the stability of our genome. Jan Hoeijmakers has earned international recognition for having identified key aspects of the molecular basis of DNA repair and the role it plays in the development of tumors and in premature aging. He studied how proteins detect damage in our DNA, remove the damaged DNA and subsequently add new DNA, and demonstrated the importance of DNA repair for cancer prevention and ageing.
Together with his group, Hoeijmakers discovered a major DNA repair pathway, nucleotide excision repair (NER). The NER pathway is responsible for the repair of bulky DNA adducts, most notably, pyrimidine dimers, the critical DNA lesion induced by UV radiation and hence by sunlight. Defects in this pathway lead to a series of severe genetic disorders involving sun sensitivity and cancer predisposition, most notably, xeroderma pigmentosum.
Professor Hoeijmakers has been at the forefront of the DNA repair field for around three decades. From the very early days of molecular cloning of human DNA repair genes, he has been a leader in the field and a pioneer in studies of the role of DNA repair function in suppression of cancer. In more recent years, his work has shifted into the field of ageing, and the quality and significance of the findings have continued to be at the highest level.
In addition to carrying out superb science, Professor Hoeijmakers has been promoting dissemination of science to the general public, policy makers and politicians. His enthusiasm and passion make him an excellent advocate for biomedical science.