The Bernard Witholt PHA Award was given to Prof. Auxi Prieto in honor of Prof. Bernard Witholt (1941-2015) during the ISBP 2022 this September. This is the first edition of the prize, and its objective is to recognize scientists who have made key contributions in the field. Prof. Auxi Prieto worked together with Prof. Bernard Witholt for many years during her PostDoc time in Switzerland.
In her tribute she states: "One of Bernard's characteristics was his tendency to get involved in very competitive areas of research – in ‘trending topics’ both from a research and commercial point of view. A month before I joined Bernard's group, he invited me to attend a congress on bioplastics being held in Davos. I was shocked when I realized that the research line in which I was to invest my time as a post-doc in his laboratory lay in the sights of hundreds of researchers and businesses on every continent. During my PhD, I had carefully selected my objectives, cultivating an exclusive patch free of strong competitors that might publish results before me. Bernard reassured me, however, promising me that the enjoyment to be found in biotechnology was trying to bring to society what it required, that it provided well-being. He also assured me that companies would inevitably try to make money from our discoveries and not to worry about it. He thus helped me form part of an exciting world that requires being open to collaboration between the disciplines of molecular biology, biocatalysis, metabolic and chemical engineering, and metabolic modelling. Does this not remind you of the ‘Societal Challenges’ section of the current EU Research and Innovation programme Horizon 2020? I spent my last day in Zurich as a post-doc in Bernard's group in 1998, at his house, celebrating my leaving party with him and my colleagues. Over a glass of beer and appetizers, he talked about how, in the coming decades, we would need to look for wealth in our waste – the idea of valorizing our refuse that now forms the basis of bioeconomics. ‘You have a few years for making something out of this in your work, but then we'll discover how to capture energy easily from the sun – and everything will change’. I hope we'll be ready for it" [Auxi Prieto (1996–1998)].
Congratulations to our partner Auxi Prieto from CSIC!
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