Yale Professor Akiko Iwasaki honored for research on long COVID with 2.5 million euros

Else Kröner Fresenius Prize for Medical Research acknowledges outstanding work on immune responses in the event of viral infections
Yale Professor Akiko Iwasaki at the award presentation ceremony on June 5, 2023

Bad Homburg v.d. Höhe, June 6, 2023 – Yesterday immunobiologist Akiko Iwasaki from the Yale School of Medicine was awarded this year’s Else Kröner Fresenius Prize for Medical Research. One of the world’s most highly endowed distinctions for research in the field of medicine, the prize amounts to 2.5 million euros. 

Iwasaki personally accepted the prize from Dr. Dieter Schenk, Chairman of the Foundation Board at Else Kröner-Fresenius-Stiftung (EKFS), during the award presentation at the Palmengarten in Frankfurt am Main, Germany. “EKFS is acknowledging Akiko Iwasaki’s research work on immune responses in the event of viral infections with this distinction,” said Dr. Schenk on the occasion of the award ceremony: “What’s more, this distinction also funds and furthers Professor Iwasaki’s plans for investigating post-acute infection syndromes such as long COVID and ME/CFS (myalgic encephalomyelitis/chronic fatigue syndrome).” 
Akiko Iwasaki and her team are studying the underlying mechanisms of long COVID and other post-acute infection syndromes (PAIS): “After looking at thousands of different factors, we established interesting differences in the so-called immune signatures,” explained the 52-year-old Sterling Professor and Director of the Center for Infection and Immunity at Yale University in the USA. “For example, people with long COVID have lower levels of circulating cortisol, altered immune responses in the case of T and B cells, or exhibit a reactivation of the Epstein-Barr virus (EBV).”

On the basis of these findings Professor Iwasaki plans to facilitate a greater understanding of the underlying mechanisms behind PAIS. The research scientist wants to utilize the prize money for a large-scale study of patients in which, together with her team, she wants to examine the immunoprofiles of patients who have fallen ill with PAIS. The aim is to identify so-called biomarkers which enable a differentiation of the various forms of PAIS. 

In his laudation in honor of Iwasaki, Prof. Dr. Dr. h.c. Stefan H. E. Kaufmann, director emeritus and founding director of the Max Planck Institute for Infection Biology in Berlin, stated that biosignatures would provide the opportunity to prevent long COVID or treat it during an early phase of the illness and block its progress before severe symptoms appear: “What an impressive example of research on the path from the lab to the real world!” emphasized Kaufmann in his speech: “Akiko Iwasaki’s research does not stop at the drawing board. She makes advances into the real world and will ultimately contribute toward solving a major health problem.”

Additional information: 
Prizewinner film: https://youtu.be/6vGkoaIB7Qw
EKFS website: www.ekfprize23.de

Else Kröner Fresenius Prize for Medical Research
The Else Kröner Fresenius Prize for Medical Research was awarded for the first time in 2013 on the occasion of the 25th anniversary of Else Kröner’s death. It is intended to enable breakthroughs in biomedical research and is awarded in alternating, highly relevant and promising areas of biomedicine. The prize honors research scientists who have made notable scientific contributions in their field and whose work in the future allows pathbreaking findings to be expected. The prize is endowed with 2.5 million euros – and is thus one of the world’s most highly endowed prizes for medical research.

Else Kröner-Fresenius-Stiftung (EKFS) – Advancing research. Helping people.
Else Kröner-Fresenius-Stiftung is a non-profit foundation dedicated to the funding and advancement of medical research and the support of humanitarian projects. To date the foundation has funded around 2,400 projects. With an annual funding volume currently amounting to over 60 million euros it is the largest foundation in Germany that actively funds and supports medicine. You can find more information at: www.ekfs.de/en

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