Scientist Jiř Friml from VIB and Ghent University, both in Flanders, Belgium, is this year's laureate of the Krber European Science Award, worth 750 000 euro. The Krber Foundation annually awards European scientists who are pursuing particularly innovative research projects. Friml gets the prize for his research into the development and adaptability of plants.
"Friml's work on the genetic, molecular and cellular processes that direct the development of plants is truly groundbreaking. His discoveries have an influence that reaches far beyond plant sciences alone," the Krber Foundation said in its announcement.
Phenomenal adaptability of plants
Unlike animals, plants can't run away when confronted with heat, drought or other forms of stress. Plants tackle those problems in a totally different way: they are able to adapt their metabolism very quickly in response to changes in their environment, for example by growing new roots, temporarily shutting down their respiration or by initiating the production of toxins. The plant hormone auxin, the primary research target of Friml, plays a central role in this adaptability. Understanding the effect of auxin may lead to development of plants that are more resistant to drought or produce higher yields.
From the Czech Republic, over Germany to Belgium
Jiř Friml was born in the Czech Republic in 1973. He performed his PhD work at the renowned Max Planck Institute in Cologne, Germany and obtained his PhD in Biology at the University of Cologne, and a PhD in Biochemistry at Masaryk University in Brno, Czech Republic. Before he transferred to Ghent in 2007, he led a research team at the Universities in Tbingen and Gttingen, Germany. Since 2007 he heads the research group "Auxin, polarity and patterning" in the VIB Department of Plant Systems Biology at Ghent University. Friml has moved to Flanders with the help of the Odysseus Programme, an initiative of the Flemish government to attract top researchers.
Second Krber Prize for UGent
It is the second time that a biotech researcher from Ghent wins the Krber Prize. Dirk Inz, the scientific director of the department where Friml conducts his research, received the award in 1994.
|Contact: Evy Vierstraete|
VIB (the Flanders Institute for Biotechnology)