15 June 2017

The Nobel Prize of the Low Countries

Spinoza Prizes for Albert Heck and Alexander van Oudenaarden

Spinozalaureaten Alexander van Oudenaarden en Albert Heck.
Albert Heck (l) and Alexander van Oudenaarden.

Albert Heck and Alexander van Oudenaarden of Utrecht University have both received a Spinoza Prize from the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO), which is the highest academic award in the Netherlands. Heck and Van Oudenaarden are seen across the world as pioneers in biomolecular research, in which both of them have specialised. They collaborate in this field within Utrecht University's Life Sciences research theme.

Each scientist will receive €2.5 million. The researchers are free to choose the research they wish to spend this money on. Research funding party 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 field from an international perspective.

Albert Heck - Proteins and the role they play in our cells

Albert Heck is compiling an overview of all of the proteins found in the human body. 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 - How cells can develop into different types

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.

Who preceded Heck and Van Oudenaarden?

Including Albert Heck and Alexander van Oudenaarden, the total number of Spinoza laureates at Utrecht University has increased. Two years ago, Professor of Religious Studies Birgit Meyer received the Spinoza Prize. Professor of Inorganic Chemistry and Catalysis Bert Weckhuysen received the award in 2013.


Monica van der Garde, public information officer Faculty of Science, +31 (0)6 13 66 14 38, m.vandergarde@uu.nl.