The NWO Spinoza Prize is the highest award in Dutch science. Each year, NWO awards the Spinoza Prizes to three or four top internationally renowned researchers working in the Netherlands.
The Spinoza laureates perform outstanding and ground breaking research, which has a large impact. They are an inspiration for young researchers. The NWO Spinoza Prize is a mark of honour for the laureate’s achievements in their scientific career and a stimulus for further research. The prize consists of 2.5 million euros and a bronze statue of Spinoza
The Spinoza Prize was established in 1995. The prize is named after Baruch Spinoza (1632-1677), who was an internationally renowned Dutch scientist and a clear example of freedom in research. NWO created the prize to increase the visibility of excellent scientists and to encourage top research in the Netherlands.
Nomination can only take place at the invitation of NWO. Candidates themselves are not allowed to submit an application.
(Source: NWO website)
NWO Spinoza Prize – 2009 Michel Ferrari
Prof. Michel D. Ferrari, MD, PhD, FANA, FRCP (link)
Department of Neurology
NWO contribution: EUR 2.500.000
Information about Prof. Ferrari (source: NWO website)
Michel Ferrari (1954) is professor of Neurology at Leiden University and Leiden University Medical Center. Professor Ferrari received the NWO-Spinoza Prize 2009 for his groundbreaking migraine research. He was the first to identify migraine genes, has developed new drugs to treat migraine attacks and acts as an ambassador for headache patients. Michel Ferrari (15 July 1954, Tandjong Pandan, Indonesia, Swiss nationality) gained his degree in medicine at Leiden University in 1980 and obtained his doctorate there with distinction in 1992. In 2002, Leiden University appointed him as professor of neurology. Ferrari has received many important prizes and grants, such as a Vici grant from NWO in 2004. In addition to this he has fulfilled many prestigious positions in national and international scientific organisations. For example, he is past president of the International Headache Society and currently chair of the Dutch Headache Society and the Leiden Centre for Translational Neuroscience. Ferrari is not only a scientist but also a practising clinical neurologist. Michel Ferrari is the migraine expert of the Netherlands and one of the six so-called 'Headache Masters' in the world. He has made various major contributions to our understanding of migraine and how to treat it. This is of immense societal value, as 12% of the general population suffers from migraines. His research maxim has always been: translational multidisciplinary collaboration. During his doctoral research into the role of serotonin in migraine, Ferrari made crucial contributions to the development of triptans. These were the first specific drugs that effectively suppressed migraine attacks. The headache specialist is also searching for treatments to prevent attacks. Within this context his research group was the first to identify a gene for a rare, severe form of migraine, associated with prolonged half-sided paralysis. This discovery in 1996 was referred to by one of the referees as 'comparable to placing a flag on the moon'. His research team has since discovered four other migraine genes. According to Ferrari, migraine is all too easily dismissed as 'a fuss about nothing'. He therefore champions the interests of headache patients. The book ‘Alles over hoofdpijn en aangezichtspijn’ [Everything about headache and facial pain] that he wrote with a colleague is a bestseller among headache sufferers. Michel Ferrari is a highly productive and passionate scientist. He currently has about 350 publications to his name and has been cited almost 10,000 times. Moreover he is the author or co-author of some hundred book chapters. He is an internationally renowned opinion leader in the field of neurology and a much sought-after speaker at scientific congresses and patient events. Ferrari attracts many talented young researchers from the Netherlands and further afield, and also finds time to arouse the interest of talented school pupils for a scientific study by actively involving them in scientific research. Considering this impressive record, the Spinoza committee is convinced that the Spinoza Prize of 2.5 million euro shall be well spent. The committee hopes that this boost will enable Ferrari to realise his dream: finding a good migraine drug that people can take daily to completely prevent migraine attacks.
Source photo: Ivar Pel | NWO
NWO Spinoza Prize – 2002 Frits Rosendaal
Prof. F.R. Rosendaal (link)
Department of Clinical Epidemiology
NWO contribution: EUR 1.500.000
Information about Prof. Rosendaal (source: NWO website)
Frits Rosendaal (b. 1959) was awarded his NWO Spinoza Prize in 2002. He is professor of Clinical Epidemiology Leiden University and Leiden University Medical Center. Professor Frits Rosendaal received the Spinoza Prize in 2002 in recognition of his achievements in understanding hereditary forms of thrombosis and their consequences. He is among the world’s leading experts in the field of hereditary clotting factors and associated risks of conditions such as venous thrombosis and cardiac infarction. The Leiden University Medical Center has a global reputation in the field of hereditary blood clotting disorders. Without Frits Rosendaal's contribution, this research would never had gained such status. Or, as one of the referees expressed it: 'The foundations were there, but Frits built a unique house on them.' Rosendaal's great merit is that he is able to identify key aspects quickly and accurately and is hugely enthusiastic in setting up the right studies. Rosendaal's original focus was on the risk factors that cause thrombosis – the development of blood clots – in the veins. He now also studies arteries, cardiac conditions, cerebral infarctions and cerebral haemorrhages. The strength of his research is that he links genetic mutations with environmental factors, which was how he discovered new risk factors for thrombosis. One of those risk factors is an abnormal gene responsible for the production of clotting factor V. This disorder is known as 'Factor V Leiden'. Rosendaal discovered that women with the mutation are seven times more likely to develop thrombosis than 'normal' women. In women with the mutation who were using the contraceptive pill, the risk was found to be ten times higher than in other pill users. Rosendaal is among the world leaders in his field and is the undisputed top scientist in the Netherlands. He is a prolific author, with a string of high-quality publications. Many of his studies have been published in top periodicals such as Blood, the New England Journal of Medicine and The Lancet. In the latest Science, he ranks second in terms of number of citations. Eight of his articles are top publications which feature among the best one percent in the world. One referee aptly summed up the epidemiologist and internist: 'He is a bright, new star; very few people make a name for themselves so quickly in this research field.' An encouraging factor in his research is the fact that Frits Rosendaal collaborates well with both clinicians and fundamental research scientists. He is able to rely on an extensive international network. He gives keynote addresses at nearly all the major conferences. He has an ability to convey his message effectively, even to a lay audience. And what about the future? Everything that Frits Rosendaal has taken on has been a success. He is considered capable of leading a large research group. He is brimming with ideas and will work passionately for many years to come. In particular, his new research into risk factors in arterial diseases is expected to generate interesting results.
NWO Spinoza Prize – 2002 Els Goulmy
Prof. E.A.J.M. Goulmy
Department of Transplantation Biology
NWO contribution: EUR 1.500.000
Information about Prof. Goulmy (source: NWO website)
Els Goulmy (b. 1946) was awarded her NWO Spinoza Prize in 2002. She is professor of Transplantation Biology, in particular Minor Histocompatibility Antigens, at Leiden University and the Leiden University Medical Centre. Professor Goulmy received the Spinoza Prize in 2002 for her groundbreaking work in unravelling the significance of transplantation antigens (non-HLA minor antigens). Els Goulmy is a top international expert in human tissue typing and a leader in the field of non-HLA minor antigens. These antigens were previously not considered important in reactions between transplant and recipient. Thanks to Goulmy's work, we now know that they do indeed play an important role in humans. We are all familiar with the human immune system in the form of white blood cells. Medics call this the Human Leukocyte Antigen (HLA) system. Transplants can fail, however, even if the HLA of donor and recipient are a perfect match. This happens because the 'less important' (i.e. minor) antigens of donor and recipient do not match. Such cases often result in death. The 'minor antigens' were discovered in mice in the 1970s. Goulmy showed that they play a crucial role in humans. She also proved that typing tissues for these antigens is necessary for successful bone marrow transplantation. All of the referees consulted describe Els Goulmy as the best in the Netherlands in her field. She is one of the top experts worldwide. Professor Goulmy often works with the six or seven other groups in the world that are active in this field and is frequently the driving force in these partnerships. Els Goulmy has a very clear sense of what she needs to do. She has an unerring knack for finding the experts who can help put her plans into practice. Her work is published by top journals such as Nature and Science. She has received various awards, including the Van Loghem Prize from the Dutch Society for Immunology (NVVI) in 2001. Goulmy has had a very unusual, exceptional career showing evidence of great dedication, intellect, perseverance and insight. She started as a lab technician following a degree in Nijmegen. Next, she worked for a while in Leiden and then in Madison, USA. She finally obtained her PhD in Paris, as technicians could not take PhDs in the Netherlands at the time. Following a sabbatical at Stanford in 1990, Els Goulmy was appointed professor in Leiden in 1999. Some of her young students are now starting to break through on their own account.
Prof. Els Goulmy retired in 2011.
Source photo: Ivar Pel | NWO