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During its official award ceremony, the European Respiratory Society (ERS) announced this year’s recipient of the Society’s award for research in the field of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), Dr. Hendrika Marian (Marike) Boezen, Professor of Epidemiology at the University of Groningen, The Netherlands.
The ERS Research Award acknowledges the work of engaged scientists active in pulmonology research.
The prize, €50,000 to be used for scientific research projects in the field of COPD, was allocated to Professor Boezen for the project ‘Genetics of (non)smoking-related COPD: extreme accelerated FEV1 decline and/or developed COPD in never-smoking subjects and identification of environmental exposures’.
The huge socio-economic burden of the disease and lack of knowledge on the origins of the ‘susceptible smokers’ led to Professor Boezen and her team to perform candidate studies in large population cohorts, followed by GWAS and studies investigating the relation of genetics to protein expression in association with biopsy findings in COPD patients.
Apart from confirmation of the concept of the genetically susceptible smoker, Boezen also observed genetic effects on lung function decline that were independent of the effect of smoking.
“It was not an easy task to select a winner amongst all the valuable scientific contributions,” said Professor Laurent P. Nicod, ERS Scientific Committee Chair.
“On behalf of the ERS Scientific Committee, I thank all candidates for dedicating their time to improving current knowledge of COPD, a complex disease which in spite of being a leading cause of death remains highly under-diagnosed.
“In particular, we congratulate the awardee, Marike Boezen, who together with her research group has made an important contribution to better understanding the impact of specific environmental exposures other than active smoking in COPD patients.
“Her ongoing research might lead to identification of different genetic variants playing a role in disease onset, as well as the onset of impaired lung function, suggesting that genetic factors distinct from those involved in the onset of smoking-related COPD may determine non-smoking-related COPD.”