To celebrate the Society’s 20th anniversary, the Netherlands Society of Gene and Cell Therapy established a new award in 2019 that seeks to honor an individual who has achieved a specific high impact contribution or a lifetime of significant contributions to the field of gene and cell therapy. The NVGCT Outstanding Achievement Award is presented at the NVGCT annual symposium. The recipient is selected from nominations submitted to the board by a yearly changing award committee.
This year’s recipient of the NVGCT Outstanding Achievement Award was Prof. dr. John van der Oost.
Prof. dr. John van der Oost is a present professor of Microbiology and Biochemistry, and leader of the Bacterial Genetics group in the Laboratory of Microbiology at Wageningen University and Research Center. He obtained his PhD in 1989 from the Vrije Universiteit in Amsterdam, followed by several years of training abroad at Helsinki University (Finland) and the European Molecular Biology Laboratory in Germany. Receiving a KNAW fellowship, he returned to the Vrije Universiteit until 1995, when he became a leader of the Bacterial Genetics group in the Laboratory of Microbiology at Wageningen University. Initially, his research was mainly focused on unique features of metabolic pathways in archaea, which has shifted towards prokaryotic anti-viral defense systems, including CRISPR-Cas and Argonaute in the last decade. Because of his invaluable research and setting ground work for CRISPR-mediated genome editing, he is considered one of the founding fathers of the CRISPR biology technique. The critical paper from 2008 “Small CRISPR RNAs guide antiviral defense in prokaryotes” was the first to demonstrate that the CRISPR-Cas system uses an RNA-guided mechanism to specifically target DNA. Furthermore, in this paper, Prof. van der Oost and colleagues successfully demonstrated that an appropriately designed CRISPR system can allow for specific targeting of any DNA sequence. John van der Oost was appointed Professor in 2005. In 2013 he was elected as member of the European Molecular Biology Organization (EMBO), followed by the Royal Netherlands Academy for Arts and Sciences (KNAW) in 2017, the Royal Dutch Society for Science and Humanities (KHMW) and the Academia Europaea, both in 2019. His impressive list of over 250 scientific publications includes Science, Cell, Nature Biotechnology and Nature, with his article in Nature cited more than 1300 times. Prof. van der Oost was awarded a NWO-Vici grand in 2004 and a NWO – Spinoza Award in 2018. The Netherlands Society of Gene and Cell Therapy is very proud to present Prof. van der Oost with the Outstanding Achievement Award this year.