Prof Piet Gros from Utrecht University has been awarded the Gregori Aminoff Prize in Crystallography 2018 by the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences. He was presented with the award in recognition of his major contributions to our understanding of the complement system, a vital component of our immune system. The award includes a cash prize of 100,000 Swedish Krona. Gros has also been presented with the European Complement Network’s ECN Medal, which is awarded every two years.
The complement system is our natural first line of defence against pathogens. It consists of a group of more than 30 proteins, which use chain reactions of complex interactions to destroy pathogens. According to the jury of the Gregori Aminoff Prize, Professor Gros’ group is a global leader in research into these proteins and their interactions. Most of our knowledge about the structure of this important and complex system is the result of their research.
Gros and his group have clarified the three-dimensional structures of a large number of the complement proteins, as well as those of many protein complexes, such as those that are created during the chain reactions. They then used that knowledge to describe in detail the molecular mechanisms that activate the complement system. These in turn explain the effect that the complement system has on the immune system.
Scientists have recently discovered that defects in the complement system could lead to a variety of medical conditions, such as auto-immune reactions and inflammations. According to the jury, the insights gained from the research conducted by Piet Gros’ group is of immediate importance for the development of new treatments for these diseases.
About Piet Gros
Piet Gros (1962) studied at the University of Groningen, where he also earned his PhD. After postdoc positions at the ETH Zurich in Switzerland and Yale University in the United States, he came to Utrecht University in 1994. In 2002, he was appointed to the position of Professor of Biomacromolecular Crystallography. In 2010, Gros was chosen as a member of the Royal Netherlands Academy of Science, and later as a member of the European Molecular Biology Organziation in 2013. He has received several major scientific grants, including an ERC Advanced Grant and the Spinoza Prize, the highest scientific honour in the Netherlands.
The Gregory Aminoff Prize
Since 1979, the annual Gregory Aminoff Prize has been awarded to researchers in the field of crystallography: the study of the spatial ordering of atoms in a molecule. Crystallography is used in a wide range of disciplines, from biology to the material sciences. The award ceremony will take place in Malmö on 13 April 2018.
The ECN Medal
Since 1997, the ECN Medal has been awarded every two years to one or two researchers in recognition of their lifetime achievement in the field of complement system research. Gros was presented with the medal during the biannual conference of the European Complement Network in Copenhagen on 12 September.