The first Generet Award, which was launched this year, has gone to Professor Miikka Vikkula, WELBIO investigator at de Duve Institute – UCLouvain, for his research seeking a genetic explanation for vascular anomalies. Prof. Vikkula collected his prize on 6 December 2018 at a ceremony attended by, among others, HRH Princess Astrid and Belgian Federal Minister of Public Health Dr Maggie De Block.
The Generet Fund, managed by the King Baudouin Foundation, is committed to giving research into rare diseases a shot in the arm and making Belgium an international centre of expertise on rare diseases. To this end, for the next 20 years the Fund has decided to award an annual scientific prize worth €500,000 – a sum that may even be doubled following an excellent interim report. This immediately makes the Generet Award one of Belgium's leading biomedical research prizes. Both researches focusing on a specific rare disease and research aimed at seeking an understanding of mechanisms that could aid progress with various rare conditions are eligible.
An international jury established by the Fund for Scientific Research (FNRS – Fond National pour la Recherche scientifique) in collaboration with FWO (Research Foundation - Flanders) made its selection from a field of 28 candidates.
About the winner
The first winner of the Generet Award is Prof. Miikka Vikkula from the Human Genetics Laboratory at the de Duve Institute. The Generet Fund has awarded Prof. Vikkula in recognition of his research, stretching back almost 20 years now, into the genetic explanation of vascular anomalies.
There are more than 40 variants of vascular anomalies, or malformations, of blood or lymph vessels. Prof. Vikkula made a breakthrough almost 10 years ago when he identified a genetic disorder explaining one type of vascular anomalies. Over the years, he and his team have expanded their expertise to cover other types of vascular anomalies and have developed models for further research, with view to not only identifying an increasing number of genetic causes but also moving towards more effective treatment. For patients with an initial type of anomaly who have been treated as part of the research, there has now been a considerable improvement in their symptoms. Recently, the clinical trials for the first drug-based treatment were successfully completed at the Centre for Vascular anomalies of the Cliniques universitaires Saint-Luc.
The research conducted by Prof. Vikkula and his team offers hope to patients with various types of vascular anomalies – patients he knows well, as the research team works closely with the Centre for Vascular Anomalies, where patients come for diagnosis and treatment, and he was also behind the establishment of the Vascular Anomaly Patient Association (VASCAPA).
Article references : Verbyst Cathy (2018), First Generet Award goes to vascular anomalies specialist Prof. Miikka Vikkula (UCLouvain). Prize worth €500,000 for research into rare diseases. https://www.kbs-frb.be/en/Newsroom/Press-releases/2018/20181204NDGeneret