THUDICHUM LIFE AWARD
The Thudichum Life Award was awarded for the third time. Professor Dr. Yechezkel (Chezy) Barenholz from Hebrew University, Israel, and winner of Thudichum Life Award 2019 gave a short introductory lecture on Johann Ludwig Wilhelm Thudichum (1829-1901), the famous German/English physician and biochemist, who isolated and characterized numerous compounds of the brain for the first time, including phospholipids and related species. He was one of the very first to recognize the physiological importance of phospholipids.
Afterwards, Prof. Barenholz continued with a laudatory speech on this year’s awardee: Professor Dr. Pieter Cullis (University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada). Prof. Cullis receives the award for his lifelong and outstanding achievements in the field of phospholipid research.
Prof. Cullis is probably most famous for the development the first-ever FDA-approved RNA therapeutic Onpattro®. This work, which was done in great collaboration with Drew Weismann, Katalin Kariko and many, many others, laid the foundation for the BioNTech/Pfizer and Moderna vaccine against COVID-19 based on the mRNA-lipid nanoparticle (LNP) technology. But Prof. Cullis' work in the field of phospholipids started much earlier. Together with Ben de Kruijff (Utrecht University) and Mick Hope he investigated divers (basic) problems concerning membrane lipids: Why are so many different lipids there? Why do they adopt different three-dimensional structures? What are the consequences of asymmetric lipid distributions in biological membranes? By answering these and many other questions, he established the foundations of the “molecular shape concept” of phospholipids, predicting whether phospholipids can adopt a micellar, hexagonal, or bilayer phase. In later years, this concept could be transferred to cationic and pH-sensitive ionizable phospholipids, which finally culminated in the design of RNA/LNP constructs enabling the escape of RNA into the cytosol. Prof. Cullis’ career is a remarkable and impressive example of translation of basic research findings into highly interesting (phospho)lipid carriers with immense medical impact.
Professor Dr. Pieter Cullis (L) honored with the 2022 Thudichum Life Award by Yechezkel (Chezy) Barenholz (R), Thudichum Life Awardee 2019.