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Published: 2010-03-05

Hans Wolf-Watz wins prestigious microbiology award

NEWS Hans Wolf-Watz, professor at Umeå University, has been selected the 2010 GlaxoSmithKline International Member of the Year Award by the American Society for Microbiology. He is honoured for his groundbreaking achievements in the elucidation of the pathogenesis of the bacterium Yersinia, as well as his international collaborations, which have resulted in fundamental progress in the field.

The award recognises a distinguished microbiologist who has demonstrated exemplary leadership in the international microbiological community. Hans Wolf-Watz is acknowledged for his critical finding of a particular system that certain bacteria, including Yersinia, use to control our innate immune system.

The three human pathogenic strains of Yersinia (Y. pestis, Y. pseudotuberculosis, and Y. enterocolitica) have in common a large plasmid, which is essential for their virulence. This plasmid, which is called pYV, encodes major virulence determinants including a type III protein secretion system (TTSS). Hans Wolf-Watz was the first to propose that TTSSs are unique in their ability to inject proteins into their host cells. His proposal was based on his observation that Yersinia outer proteins (Yop) delivery into cells required bacterial contact and specific proteins. The proteins were not required for Yop secretion but were required for their injection into host cells. This seminal finding has been critical to the understanding of the biology of host-pathogen interaction of many bacteria, including Salmonella and Chlamydia. Hans Wolf-Watz’s research is now focused on finding chemical compounds that can inhibit the type III protection secretion system.

Hans Wolf-Watz has received both national and international scientific awards for his successful research over the years, including the Anders Jahre prize, which is second largest prize in medicine in Scandinavia after the Nobel Prize. His reputation within the scientific community has led to involvement in a variety of scientific networks. He was elected to the Royal Academy of Sciences in 1998 and EMBO (European Molecular Biology Organisation) in 1999. He was a member of the Forest and Agricultural Research Council Programme Committee for Molecular Biology during 1989-1996, and member of the then existing Swedish Medical Research Council's Programme Committee for Microbiology in 1999-2003. During the period 1999-2003 he was a member of the board of the Swedish Foundation for Strategic Research. Within Umeå University, Hans Wolf-Watz has held a variety of commissions. He is currently a member of the University Board.

Hans Wolf-Watz has also worked to commercialise his and others' research results. He was one of the twelve founders of the biotechnology company Symbicom AB, and one of seven founders of Innate Pharmaceuticals AB, currently named Creative Antibiotics.

For further information, contact:Hans Wolf-Watz Phone: +46 90-785 25 30, Mobile: +46 70-652 06 52
E-mail: hans.wolf-watz@molbiol.umu.se

Editor: Karin Wikman