Champagne Reception        6:30 PM - 7:00 PM

Award Ceremony                 7:00 PM - 8:15 PM

Dr. Axel Jahns

Vice President Corporate Citizenship and Governmental Affairs, Eppendorf AG

Prof. Edith Heard

Director General EMBL

Dr. Peter Fruhstorfer

Co-CEO & Chief Business Officer Eppendorf SE

Prof. Reinhard Jahn • Award Jury Chair

Director Emeritus, Max Planck Institute for Biophysical Chemistry, Göttingen

Arnau Sebé-Pedrós, PhD • Award Finalist 2022

Centre for Genomic Regulation (CRG), Barcelona, Spain

Scientific talk: "Single-cell genomics of cellular diversity and evolution: Towards a cell type tree of life"

Lena Pernas, PhD • Award Finalist 2022

Max Planck Institute for Biology of Ageing, Köln, Germany

Scientific talk: "Our domesticated microbes defend against invading parasites"

Prof. Laura Machesky

The Beatson Institute, Glasgow, UK

Thi Hoang Duong Nguyen, PhD • Award Winner 2022

MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology, Cambridge UK

Scientific talk: "Replenishing the ends: Visualisation of human telomerase by cryo-electron microscopy"

Angela Egglestone

Editor, Nature

Tanmay Bharat, PhD • Award Winner 2021

MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology, Cambridge UK

Dr. Thi Hoang Duong Nguyen

The award is given to Dr. Thi Hoang Duong Nguyen (MRC Laboratory for Molecular Biology, Cambridge, UK) for her pioneering work on the structure and function of two RNA-protein complexes essential for all higher organisms:  spliceosome and telomerase. Her work provided fundamental insights into the structure and function of these complexes and will have a lasting impact on the understanding of RNA processing and genome stability.

The ends of eukaryotic chromosomes are protected by specialised caps, called telomeres. Unlike bacteria whose chromosomes are circular, eukaryotic chromosomes have linear ends, which cannot be fully copied by the conventional DNA replication machinery. This results a gradual erosion of the protective telomere caps. Cells that lose too much of their telomeres will stop dividing and eventually die. To overcome this cellular aging problem, an enzyme, called telomerase, is employed to add the lost DNA back to the chromosome ends. Most adult cells, however, do not have sufficient telomerase to avoid the cellular aging process. In contrast, stem cells, germlines and cancers switch telomerase on to extend their lifespans. In addition, mutations that disrupt telomerase function lead to numerous premature aging diseases. Therefore, since its discovery, telomerase has been considered as a prime anti-cancer and anti-aging drug target.

For decades, the lack of our knowledge on the three-dimensional shape of telomerase had hindered progress towards its manipulation for therapeutic purposes. We have recently filled in this knowledge gap by providing the first three-dimensional visualisation of human telomerase in unprecedented details. We discovered that most premature aging disease mutations cluster around one hotspot, explained how these mutations lead to telomerase deficiency, and may provide avenues towards treating these diseases. We also identified entirely new telomerase components. These findings open up exciting future opportunities to study telomerase mechanism and regulation at a molecular level. A deep understanding of how this fascinating enzyme functions will greatly accelerate the development of telomerase-based therapeutics.