The Dr Axel Hirsch Prize
This prize is awarded annually by the Board of Research at Karolinska Institutet as "recognition for a scientific article of high value published by a Swedish scientific researcher". The actual choice of prize winner takes place by way of nomination.
Prize winner 2016 - Mats Wahlgren
Mats Wahlgren, professor at the Department of Microbiology, Tumour and Cell Biology is awarded the prize for his studies of the mechanisms by which blood group 0 protects against severe malaria.
In severe cases of malaria, the infected red blood cells adhere excessively in the microvasculature and block the blood flow, causing oxygen deficiency and tissue damage that can lead to coma, brain damage and, eventually death. Scientists have therefore been keen to learn more about how the parasite Plasmodium falciparum makes the infected red blood cells so sticky. Further, it is known that people of blood group O are protected against severe malaria, while those with other types, such as A, more often fall into a coma and die. Understanding the molecular mechanisms underlying this phenomenon has therefore been one important objective for malaria research.
Mats Wahlgren and his group have identified a new and important piece of the puzzle by describing the key part played by the RIFIN protein. Using data generated in vitro and in animals, he shows how the Plasmodium falciparum parasite synthesizes RIFIN, and how the protein makes its way to the surface of the blood cell, where it acts as an adhesin, a glue. He also demonstrates how RIFIN adheres strongly to the surface of type A red blood cells, but only weakly to group O, and suggests this to be the mechanism that triggers severe malaria the higher frequency of severe malaria in those of blood group A.
Previous prize winners
2014 - Yihai Cao
Yihai Cao, Professor at the Department of Microbiology, Tumor and Cell Biology, Karolinska Institutet is awarded the 2014 Axel Hirsch Prize for his groundbreaking studies on angiogenesis and its importance for numerous physiological and pathological conditions.
2013 - Anders Kvanta
Anders Kvanta, Chief Physician at the St. Erik Eye Hospital and Adjunct Professor of Ophthalmology at the Department of Clinical Neuroscience, Karolinska Institutet is awarded the Axel Hirsch Prize for research which lays the foundation for treating one of our most common retinal diseases.
2012 - Per-Olof Berggren
Per-Olof Berggren, professor at the Rolf Luft Research Center for Diabetes and Endocrinology, Karolinska Institutet, is awarded the Axel Hirsch Prize for his discovery that insulin secretion in the pancreas is not controlled directly by nerves as was previously thought, but only indirectly by the blood.
2011 - Lars Lundell
Lars Lundell, adjunct professor at the Department of Clinical Science, Intervention and Technology, Karolinska Institutet, has been awarded the Axel Hirsch Prize, for his studies into a serious form of acid reflux known as gastroesophageal reflux disease.
2010 - Christer Betsholtz
Christer Betsholtz, Professor at the Department of Medical Biochemistry and Biophysics at Karolinska Institutet has been awarded the Axel Hirsch Prize for a series of internationally noted and widely cited research papers on how blood vessels are formed (angiogenesis).
2009 - Torkel Klingberg
Torkel Klingberg, Professor at the Department of Woman and Child Health at Karolinska Institutet has been awarded the Axel Hirsch Prize in recognition of his cutting edge research on the development of the working memory in people with functional impairment.