2020 Marcel Benoist Swiss Science Prize: Nominations still possible

Johan Auwerx, Träger des Preises Marcel Benoist 2016.

For its centenary, the Marcel Benoist Swiss Science Prize will be awarded in 2020 in the field of biology and medicine. Former prize winner, Johan Auwerx, explains the significance of the prize. Nominations can be submitted until 27 March 2020.

The Marcel Benoist Swiss Science Prize is Switzerland’s oldest and most prestigious research prize, and has been awarded since 1920. In the last 100 years, more than 70 researchers from the field of biology and medicine have received the award, including Kurt Wüthrich and Nils K. Jerne, who both went on to win Nobel prizes.

Johan Auwerx from the EPF Lausanne was the last researcher from this field to win the prize, in 2016. In a short interview, the professor of molecular physiology explains the significance of the Swiss Science Prize and speaks about former prize winners who have been a particular inspiration to him.

How important do you think the Marcel Benoist Swiss Science Prize is in the field of biology and medicine?

It is the most important Swiss research prize in this field. Given the high quality of biomedical sciences in Switzerland, past laureates have been trendsetters and leaders in their respective field. So I was very pleased to hear I had been awarded this prestigious prize for my work on nutrition and metabolism.

Which former Marcel Benoist prize winners have inspired you in particular?

As all laureates are really very accomplished scientists, this is difficult to say. The studies of Professors Aguzzi, Wüthrich, Keller, and Hall in the biomedical field were all game changers. But laureates in other domains, such as Professors Grätzel, Mayor, and Gisin, have left equally important footprints on the way we think about science and its implications for society.

The prize is awarded for research that has a particular impact on society or human life. In your opinion, what biological and medical research has had the greatest social impact?

As a molecular physiologist I would say that, of all the discoveries in biomedicine, the early discoveries that clean water and sanitation, and a balanced nutrition keep populations healthy have had the largest impact on society up to now. Large parts of the world’s population still lack access to clean water and sanitation, making them susceptible to many communicable diseases. Poor nutrition, caused for example by a lack of essential micronutrients such as iodine and vitamins, and the contamination of food supplies by environmental toxins are still very problematic in developing countries. Developed countries, on the other hand, are dealing with the consequences of processed food and over nutrition. Providing clean water and healthy food for all, therefore, remains a challenge for scientists in this time and age.

Nominations by 27 March

The Board of Trustees of the Marcel Benoist Foundation has once again given the SNSF the task of evaluating all the nominees and selecting the winner.

The nomination procedure is open to the entire Swiss research community. Researchers, leading members of research institutions and representatives of other public or private institutions may submit their proposals by 27 March 2020. Potential award winners are researchers who live in Switzerland and work at least 50% at a Swiss research institution. The majority of the relevant research work must have been carried out while working in Switzerland. Detailed information on the nomination procedure can be found on the website of the Marcel Benoist Foundation.