15 June 2021 – Andrea Ablasser, Professor at EPFL, the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne, Switzerland, is the recipient of the EMBO Gold Medal 2021. With the medal and an award of 10,000 euros, EMBO recognizes outstanding achievements of scientists under the age of 40 in Europe.
Andrea Ablasser receives the award for her pioneering work on how cells recognize inappropriate presence of double-stranded DNA in the cytoplasm as a danger signal and how the sensing of DNA initiates powerful innate immune responses. Her scientific work provides insights into newly discovered mechanisms of innate immunity and may pave the way for therapeutic opportunities for the treatment of inflammatory conditions and cancer in humans.
Ablasser has been exploring the mechanisms and regulation of the DNA sensor cGAS, which upon activation produces the messenger molecule cGAMP. This messenger activates the receptor STING, which eventually activates the immune system through the production of cytokines. More recently, she has elucidated mechanisms by which this pathway is suppressed when encountering host DNA to avoid autoreactivity.
EMBO Member Douglas Hanahan, Distinguished Scholar of the Ludwig Institute for Cancer Research and former Director at the Swiss Institute for Experimental Cancer Research (ISREC), EPFL, says: “Andrea Ablasser is a remarkably creative and accomplished scientist. Each of her publications is a conceptual tour de force, clearly establishing her as an exceptional biomedical scientist of her generation.”
The EMBO Gold Medal recipient has been invited to present her research at Cell Bio 2021, a joint online meeting by ASCB and EMBO, in December.