Today it has been announced that the research groups Omnes Pro Uno (OPU) from Utrecht University and the Interdisciplinary Hub for Digitalization and Society (iHub) from Radboud University Nijmegen are the winners of the 2022 Ammodo Science Award for groundbreaking research. Each group receives a cash prize of 1.2 million euros that may be used to explore new areas of research.
Two years ago, Ammodo initiated the Ammodo Science Award for groundbreaking research, the first science prize for groups carrying out such research. In 2020, the Award was presented for the first time to two research groups in the domains of Natural Sciences and Social Sciences. This year, the Award will be presented for the first time in the domains of Biomedical Sciences and Humanities.
Juliette de Wijkerslooth, director of Ammodo says: “Great insights in science are often the product of good teamwork. With this in mind, we established the Ammodo Science Award for groundbreaking research in 2020: to provide a powerful extra stimulus to already excellent research groups in their pursuit of knowledge. We are now delighted to present the award for the second time to two more exceptional research groups.”
Tailored treatment for genetic diseases
For ten years, the Utrecht research group OPU, winner in the Biomedical Sciences domain, has had the mission of seeking to find a cure for patients with a genetic disease before irreversible damage occurs in the body. Their research has led to groundbreaking world first discoveries. For example, researchers have succeeded in growing mini-organs from almost all tissues in the human body so that treatments can be tested and genetic errors corrected. The next ambitious step is for OPU to be the first in the world to correct the genetic cause of diseases directly in the bodies of patients via the bloodstream, before the disease has an opportunity adversely to affect the body.
Sabine Fuchs, OPU’s principal investigator and paediatrician for metabolic diseases at UMC Utrecht, says: “By combining basic, clinical, social and ethical research in all phases of our work, our team offers a unique perspective on treatment to patients and society as a whole. Thanks to the Ammodo Science Award, our team can now use the unprecedented developments in genetic engineering ethically to develop innovative gene correction therapies to treat large group of patients with inherited diseases.”
Protecting public values in a time of ever increasing digitalisation
The Nijmegen research group iHub, winner in the Humanities domain, focuses on urgent questions arising from the increasing digitalisation of our society. How does one develop technology that promotes privacy? What are the risks to society now that large tech companies are playing an increasingly active role in the public sector? iHub identifies which social values are threatened by digitalisation and what can be done to protect these values. The group also designs and develops technology that embeds and protects public values. Its efforts have led, among other things, to new conceptual models that are used worldwide to understand digital processes, and tools to monitor these developments over time. In the coming period, iHub will investigate, among other things, whether the increasing use of digital technologies during the covid crisis, such as the corona pass, normalises government surveillance. The researchers also want to show how work changes with the introduction of robots and algorithms in the workplace.
Tamar Sharon, principal investigator and codirector of iHub states that: “At iHub, we investigate the effects of digitalisation on society from an interdisciplinary perspective, with experts from the humanities, social sciences and computer sciences, among others. The Ammodo Science Award will allow us to study and develop interdisciplinary solutions for protecting fundamental public values in digitalisation processes more extensively.”
All rectors of the fourteen VSNU member universities were asked to submit a nomination. The reactions of the rectors of the two winners are as follows:
Professor Henk Kummeling, rector magnificus of Utrecht University: “Utrecht University and UMC Utrecht are extremely proud of our team of scientific leaders. By combining their complementary expertise in areas such as organoids, genetics, ethics and translational medicine in Omnes Pro Uno, they are making an important contribution to the treatment of rare diseases. Because these diseases are indeed so rare, less money is usually invested in developing appropriate therapies. Moreover, the research of OPU is closely linked to the educational function of our university, so the team also inspires the researchers and doctors of the future.”
Prof. Dr. J.H.J.M. (Han) van Krieken, rector magnificus Radboud University: “We are extremely pleased that iHub has won the Ammodo Science Award. Digitalisation is everywhere and the greatest imaginable risk is that it will make our society less human, less just and more culturally impoverished. iHub’s innovative and diverse team of humanities scholars has the unique capability of being able to interpret the impact of digitalisation on our culture and ethics, or in other words: the things that make us human.”
More information about the winners and their research can be found here.