Ploegh wins Belgian health prize

Photo: Princess Mathilde and Whitehead Member Hidde Ploegh

Princess Mathilde presents Whitehead Member Hidde Ploegh with the Interbrew-Baillet Latour Health Prize.

Photo: Marie-Noëlle Cruysmans

May 11, 2006

Tags: Ploegh LabAwards + Announcements

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. (May 11, 2006) — Whitehead Member Hidde Ploegh has been awarded the 2006 Interbrew-Baillet Latour Health Prize, worth 150,000 euros. It is the largest scientific prize awarded in Belgium. Sponsored by the InBev-Baillet Latour Fund, the award is given annually to one or two scientists in order “to recognize the merits of a person whose work has contributed prominently to the improvement of human health.”

According to a statement released by the foundation, Ploegh “has made fundamental discoveries on how abnormal proteins are broken down in cells and how viruses manipulate these processes to gain advantage. His work has changed our understanding of how normal cells eliminate newly made proteins that are incorrectly folded, and of how viruses evade immune responses.”

The prize was presented to Ploegh in Brussels on May 6 by Princess Mathilde.

One of the world’s leading researchers in immune system behavior, Ploegh studies the various tactics that viruses employ to evade our immune responses, and the ways in which our immune system distinguishes friend from foe. His findings have implications for both vaccine and drug development.

Among his achievements, in 2002 Ploegh and his laboratory reported a new mechanism by which dendritic cells sense the presence of antigens and instruct the immune response. Using fluorescent imaging, the researchers could watch the dentritic cell carry out its task in real time.

Prior to Whitehead, Ploegh was Professor of Pathology at the Harvard Medical School, where he headed the school’s immunology program from 1997 until 2005. Prior to that, Ploegh was a Professor of Biology at MIT, working in the Center for Cancer Research.

The Artois-Baillet Latour Foundation was established in 1974 by Alfred de Baillet Latour. Between 1979 and 1999, the health prize was awarded bi-annually. Since 1999 it has been awarded each year. Hidde Ploegh is the twenty-first recipient.

For more information on the foundation, visit http://www.inbev-baillet-latour.be/en/home.asp.

Written by David Cameron.

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