September 28, 2023
FMI science prizes — winners 2023
The FMI just held its three-day “Annual Meeting” with all the institute’s scientists in the Swiss alpine resort Davos. As every year, a highlight of the event was the award ceremony for the three FMI internal science prizes — recognizing respectively the best thesis, the best postdoc study and an ingenious new method or tool. Learn more about the winners and their projects.
ED FISCHER PRIZE
This prize recognizes the best thesis defended by an FMI student in the previous year. It is named after Edmond H. Fischer (1920-2021) who received the Nobel Prize in Medicine in 1992 and was a member of the Scientific Advisory Board of the FMI for many years.
Zuzanna Kozicka was awarded the Ed Fischer Prize 2023 for her thesis entitled “Molecular glue degraders of cyclin K”. A former PhD student in the Thomä lab, Zuzanna defended her thesis in December 2022. Later this year she will begin her postdoc at the Dana Farber Cancer Institute and the MIT’s Koch Institute in Boston, USA.
The Prize committee was impressed by the pioneering character and potential impact of her work, her productivity, and by her exceptionally well written PhD thesis.
As a PhD student, Zuzanna investigated a new class of therapeutics referred to as molecular glue degraders — small molecules that induce interactions between a target protein and an enzyme that tags proteins for disposal, a process called targeted protein degradation. Such molecular glues have the potential to target proteins that were previously thought to be undruggable. Zuzanna’s thesis aimed to better understand how these compounds induce new interactions. She identified a novel class of molecular glues that show unprecedented chemical diversity, despite gluing the very same interface and triggering the degradation of the same target.
For her PhD work at the FMI, Zuzanna was awarded the EFMC-YSN PhD Prize 2023 and included in Forbes's Science & Healthcare “30 Under 30” Europe list.
MAX BURGER PRIZE
The Max Burger Prize, which recognizes an outstanding paper by a postdoctoral fellow in the previous year, is named after Max M. Burger (1933-2019) who was Director of the FMI for almost 15 years, from 1987 until 2001.
Aleena Garner, formerly a postdoc in the Keller lab and now a group leader at Harvard Medical School in Boston, USA, was awarded the Max Burger Prize 2023 for her paper entitled “A cortical circuit for audio-visual predictions”.
The committee was impressed by the strong conceptual thinking behind the study, the impact on the field, and by the fact that Aleena worked on the study basically by herself.
In her paper, Aleena investigated how learned associations between stimuli from different modalities — visual and auditory — can shape perception. The work unveils a direct interaction between auditory and visual cortices that leads to experience-dependent suppression of predicted visual responses in the primary visual cortex. This discovery not only advances our understanding of sensory perception but also highlights the role of long-range cortical connections in shaping neural responses and learning-induced plasticity.
Aleena R. Garner and Georg B. Keller A cortical circuit for audio-visual predictions. Nature Neuroscience 25, pages 98–105 (2022)
RUTH CHIQUET PRIZE
This prize recognizes scientists who developed an innovative new method or tool in their field that has had significant impact and shows high creativity and thinking outside the box. The award is named after Ruth Chiquet-Ehrismann (1954-2015) who was a group leader at the FMI (1985-2015) and was successful at pursuing non-mainstream topics that nonetheless had major biomedical impact.
This year, the Ruth Chiquet Prize was awarded to two Technology Platforms researchers: Charlotte Soneson (Computational Biology) and Jan Seebacher (Proteomics facility). They receive the prize for jointly developing the "einprot” software - a fully open-source R package, which provides flexible, easy-to-use, reproducible workflows for statistical analysis of quantitative proteomics data.
Thanks to einprot, the operators of the FMI Proteomics facility can now perform analysis of large datasets much faster than before, when the analysis had to be done manually, with less time spent on
routine manual work. Moreover, the automation reduces the risk of manual errors and einprot allows for a very user-friendly presentation of the results. The software is now used for most quantitative proteomics experiments performed at FMI and is having a huge positive impact on our Proteomics facility and its users. It is not only this impact that convinced the award committee, but also that the work is such a great example of two technology platforms working together to improve the service provided to users.
Participants of the FMI Annual Meeting 2023
FMI ANNUAL MEETING 2023
The FMI science prizes were awarded during the FMI Annual Meeting, which took place in Davos this year. Over 220 FMI scientists and several scientists from Novartis attended the event. The program included scientific talks by FMI PhD students and postdocs; a particularly engaging keynote lecture by Prof. Ibrahim Cissé, Director at the Max Planck Institute for Immunobiology and Epigenetics in Freiburg, Germany ; two poster sessions; an afternoon of alpine recreational activities, e.g hikes and a trotinette ride; a gala dinner with entertainment. You can learn more about the event and see photos on X (formerly Twitter) if you have an account, #FMIAM2023.
Charlotte Soneson & Jan Seebacher