Westenbrink prize 2019/2020: João Medeiros Silva
The H.G.K. Westenbrink prize 2019-2020 has been awarded to Dr. João Medeiros Silva for his thesis entitled “Towards the physiologically relevant state with high-resolution solid-state NMR”. The research was conducted at the University of Utrecht under the supervision of Dr. Markus Weingarth.
Medeiros Silva developed an innovative method by integrating state-of-the-art solid-state NMR with 1H detection and high field dynamic nuclear polarization (DNP). This makes it possible to accurately determine the structure of complex transmembrane domains under physiological conditions. The research, for which bacterial membranes were used, also provides insight into how the local cellular environment affects the binding of antibiotics. This method elucidated the mechanism of action of teixobactin, one of the most promising new antibiotics. “This very original research has resulted in a thesis of exceptionally high quality,” said the jury. The prize will be awarded during the NVBMB spring symposium on March 31, 2021.
Westenbrink prize 2018/2019: Liqin Wang
The H.G.K.Westenbrink prize 2018/2019 has been awarded to Dr. Liqin Wang for his thesis " A one-two punch model for cancer therapy " (promotor: Prof. dr. R. Bernards, Netherlands Cancer Institute, Amsterdam).
Using melanoma cells as a model system Liqin Wang developed a very original two-step cancer treatment. In step 1 the cells become resistant to the first cancer drug, but they become also weak due to high levels of reactive oxygen species (ROS). In step 2 this weakness is exploited by administering the second cancer drug, which kills the cells by raising ROS levels further. This idea is now being tested in the clinic and the first results are promising. Liqin followed this up by finding a more general “weakness” by inducing senescence in cancer cells. It is expected that his two-step procedure using sequential drugs may be further developed into a general treatment strategy for cancer. The jury finds the quality of Liqin Wang’s thesis and publications of extremely high quality.