The Wageningen University Fund has awarded its three-yearly Research Award 2015, the prize for the best academic publication produced by a Wageningen researcher, to microbiologist Daan Swarts. Jan Karel Mak, chairman of the University fund, presented the prize – a certificate of qualification, a sculpture and a cheque for €2500 – during Wageningen University’s 97th Dies Natalis celebrations.
Daan Swarts MSc (1986), a postdoc employee affiliated to the Laboratory for Microbiology at Wageningen University, was awarded the prize for his publication ‘DNA-guided DNA interference by a prokaryotic Argonaute’, which appeared last year in the leading scientific journal Nature. This article, of which he is the first author, describes the spectacular discovery of a microbial resistance system which can be seen as the evolutionary forerunner of the well-known RNA interference (RNAi) system in eukaryotes. His research opens up totally new routes to a targeted use of DNA in everything from bacteria and fungi to plant and human cells. He and his supervisor, Prof. John van der Oost, are named as inventors in two patents dealing with this discovery.
The jury was particularly impressed by Swarts’s unique discovery and the impact this could have on further genetic and biotechnological research. The jury believes the publication by Swarts et al is a breakthrough. According to the jury, the research can lead to new opportunities for curing hereditary diseases in humans.
Wageningen University Fund
The Wageningen University Fund (WUF) aims to ‘ensure that Wageningen University flourishes’. To that end, the fund always awards one specific prize on the occasion of the University’s Dies Natalis (9 March). In addition to the Research Award, there is an Outstanding Alumnus Award and a Press Award.
The other members of the Research Award jury, chaired by the Rector Magnificus Prof. Martin Kropff, are Prof. Arthur Mol, Prof. Johan van Arendonk and Dr Stan Brouns, winner of the Research Award in 2012.