Academy Beijerinck Prize for American virologist Raul Andino

27 February 2017

The Academy Beijerinck Virology Prize (EUR 35,000) has been awarded this year to Raul Andino, a virologist affiliated with the University of California in San Francisco. The Beijerinck Premium (EUR 25,000) goes to Marit van Gils, a promising AIDS researcher at the Academic Medical Centre in Amsterdam.

Beijerinck Virology Prize 

Raul Andino has been awarded the prize for research that has expanded our knowledge of viruses across the board. For example, he has studied how viruses replicate, how they interact with their host’s cells, how they evolve and how they cause disease in their hosts. Much of Andino’s work focuses on poliovirus, a small RNA virus. Some of his research is geared to improving existing vaccines and making them safer, but Andino also uses the polio virus as a model to study how other enteroviruses replicate. Viruses in its family cause disease in humans in many different forms, from stomach flu and common cold to viral meningitis. 

Andino also studies RNA interference (RNAi), a process that can attack viral DNA within infected host cells. He has demonstrated that fungi, plants and even lower-order animals such as insects make use of RNAi. Andino also analyses how RNA viruses outwit their hosts thanks to their rapid evolution. Older theories assumed that evolution occasionally produces one effective virus that then infects new hosts. Andino’s work has helped us understand that it is not a single type of virus that is transmitted but a cluster of closely related viruses, known as a ‘quasispecies’. Each of these variants has specific properties, and they are only capable of infecting and causing disease in a new host if they act together. Knowledge of the evolution of a virus is also hugely important to understanding how viruses ‘escape’ from antiviral drugs. 

Raul Andino (1957) studied and received his PhD in Buenos Aires (Argentina). He has worked in the USA since 1986, first at MIT in Boston, then at Rockefeller University in New York, and now at the University of California in San Francisco (UCSF), where he heads a group of 17 researchers in the Department of Microbiology and Immunology. 

Left to right: Eric Snijder, Raul Andino, Marit van Gils, Ben Feringa, Frank van Kuppeveld

Beijerinck Premium 

This year’s Beijerinck Premium goes to Marit van Gils (born 1982), a promising post-doc researcher at the Academic Medical Centre in Amsterdam. Van Gils studies how our immune system responds to HIV infections and uses this knowledge to develop new HIV vaccines. Her work has been published in leading journals. Van Gils studied in Groningen, received her PhD in Amsterdam and has worked in New Zealand, South Africa and the United States (California). 

Awards ceremony 

The Beijerinck Prizes will be presented on Friday 3 March in the auditorium of the Amsterdam Public Library (OBA), following the conclusion of the Dutch Annual Virology Symposium. The prize-winners will each give a short lecture.

About the Beijerinck Prizes 

The Academy Beijerinck Virology Prize is awarded every other year to an international researcher who has done exceptional work in virology. The Beijerinck Premium is awarded simultaneously to a post-doc researcher who is conducting outstanding virus-oriented research at a Dutch research institution. 

The Beijerinck Prizes were established in 1965 by the M.W. Beijerinck Virology Fund in memory of Martinus Willem Beijerinck (1851-1931), the Dutch microbiologist who gave the virus its name. The Fund is managed by the Academy, which is also responsible for the nominee assessment process.