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DSM Science and Technology Award Europe 2014 for Blake Hopiavuori

Urmond, NL, 02 Jul 2014 16:30 CEST

Royal DSM, the global Life Sciences and Materials Sciences company, has awarded the DSM Science and Technology Award, Europe 2014, to Blake Hopiavuori from the University of Oklahoma.
From left to right: Christina López Vicario, Chuck T. Chen, Blake Hopiavuori, John Miklavcic and Marcel Wubbolts

Blake Hopiavuori received the award for his PhD research titled "A novel role for very long chain fatty acids in brain function", which he concluded under the supervision of Professor Robert Eugene Anderson MD, Ph.D at the Health Sciences Center, Neuroscience Department of the University of Oklahoma (US). An international judging committee selected Hopiavuori as winner out of four nominated PhD scientists.

The award was presented by Dr. Marcel Wubbolts, Chief Technology Officer of DSM during the 11th Congress of the International Society for the Study of Fatty Acids and Lipids on 1 July 2014 in Stockholm (Sweden).

The jury indicated that Hopiavuori’s work was exceptionally innovative, as he used a very broad spectrum of research approaches and techniques. His work has an unprecedented focus on very long chain fatty acids, which are not as usually linked to brain functions as the more common PUFA's are. In addition his work has a wide application area including possible implications for chronic eye diseases, skin diseases and other neurological disorders.

Nominees and second prize winners were:

  • Christina López Vicario, Hospital Clinic/University of Barcelona, Spain; Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Genetics.
    Research topic: Omega-3 fatty acids exert protective actions in obesity-related metabolic complications.
    PhD Supervisor: Joan Clària, Ph.D.
  • Chuck T. Chen, University of Toronto, Canada; Department of Nutritional Sciences, Faculty of Medicine.
    Research topic: Brain uptake and metabolism of eicosapentaenoic acid in rodents.
    PhD Supervisors: Associate Prof. Richard P. Bazinet, Ph.D.
  • John Miklavcic, University of Alberta, Canada; Agricultural, Life and Environmental sciences.
    Research topic: Polyunsaturated Ganglioside Catabolism is Elevated in IBD: Importance of Dietary Ganglioside Intake.
    PhD Supervisor: Prof. Dr. M. Tom Clandinin

The subject area for this award was “Polyunsaturated fatty acid (PUFA) nutrition and related topics”. Out of the total number of nominations received from all over the world, four candidates have been selected for the final judging round. These four candidates were invited to present their research in a short lecture during a special DSM – ISSFAL Symposium, held at the ISSFAL congress on 30 June 2014. A judging committee of leading scientists selected the winner.

“It was very gratifying to see the very high quality and great competition for the DSM Science and Technology award that was evident at the symposium today.” said Norman Salem, Corporate Scientist, Nutritional Lipids, DSM Nutritional Products, who is also a member of the ISSFAL Board of Directors. “The work of the winner, Blake Hopiavuori, shows great promise for an improved understanding and treatment for certain diseases like Stargardts disease that affect the retina, brain and skin.”

The award was held for the first time in partnership with the International Society for the Study of Fatty Acids and Lipids. Prof Susan Carlson, President of the ISSFAL says: “ISSFAL was pleased to be a partner with DSM in identifying deserving candidates for the DSM Science and Technology Award.  The top 4 candidates for the application competed at ISSFAL 2014 in Stockholm in a special session that featured excellent talks by all four and led to the selection of a great winner.”

The DSM Science & Technology Awards are part of the DSM Bright Science Awards Program. They seek to recognize and reward outstanding young researchers (PhD students and those who have recently obtained their PhD) for innovative research with clear application potential. The award is granted in three different regions: Europe, the Americas and Asia. The award events are organized in cooperation with major scientific conferences in these regions.

In addition, on presenting the award, Dr. Marcel Wubbolts, DSM’s Chief Technology Officer commented on the importance of this work in view of DSM's wider ambitions: “For the first time we have organized our award around the field of PUFA nutrition. This is a very important area as we are increasingly learning about the health benefits of polyunsaturated fatty acids. Food and Nutrition Security is an important Sustainable Development Goal from the United Nations that aims at securing both the right amount and appropriate quality of food for all people on our planet. Understanding the role that nutrients play in improving people's health is an essential part of this ambition."