Albert Heck and Alexander van Oudenaarden of Utrecht University have both received a Spinoza Prize from the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO). This is the highest academic award in the Netherlands. Heck and Van Oudenaarden are both seen as pioneers in biomolecular research.
Each scientist will receive €2.5 million. They are free to choose the research they wish to spend this money on. NWO awards this ‘Nobel Prize of the Low Countries’ every year to no more than four researchers who belong to the very best in their fields.
Albert Heck is compiling an overview of all of the proteins found in the human body, i.e., proteomics. He also provides insight into the role that proteins play in our cells. This has led to entirely new insights for research into disease and health, offering opportunities to develop new and better medication.
As a pioneer, Heck has made a major contribution to the global breakthrough in the field of proteomics, and has also forged bonds with other specialisms. His unique expertise in the technological development of mass spectrometry combined with the large-scale protein study make him an internationally much-sought-after collaboration partner. The techniques he has developed are used in biomedical laboratories throughout the world.
Alexander van Oudenaarden
Alexander van Oudenaarden studies how cells in living creatures are able to develop into different types of cells with their specific features and functions. From an international perspective, Van Oudenaarden is viewed as one of the founders and a leading member of this emerging field. Van Oudenaarden leads the field in developing new research methods, combining techniques from developmental biology, molecular biology, physics, mathematics and informatics. This allows him to gain new insights into the development of diseases. Cancer cells, for instance, are often very varied in nature. This is why chemotherapy, for example, needs to be customised.