Peer award for one of BPRC’s PhD students

19 Dec 2019 | Back to News, Publications and Annual Reports



Tuberculosis research honoured by Dutch Society of Immunology

This year's Bright Spark Award goes to Karin Dijkman, a PhD student in our tuberculosis research group. She was presented with this award for young researchers on 11 December at the annual (winter) conference of the Dutch Society of Immunology (NVVI). Karin owes this accolade to her research into an alternative vaccination route to provide protection against tuberculosis.

‘It’s incredible’, said Karin the day after the ceremony. ‘It was already an honour in itself to be able to tell my story on stage, in front of such a large audience. And then to be chosen as a Bright Spark is absolutely fantastic. Especially because tuberculosis isn’t the most prominent infectious disease. That’s why I also regard this as an accolade for the TB work at BPRC.’

Young researchers in the spotlight

At the annual conference of the NVVI, experts bring each other up to date with their progress in the immunology arena. By means of the Bright Spark Award – awarded by a jury – the organisation puts young immunological researchers in the spotlight.

After a longlist of fifty and a shortlist of nine entries, the jury invited four researchers to present their work at the conference. On the main stage, they were given 15 minutes to share their story with their peers in the large hall of the Leeuwenhorst conference centre (Noordwijkerhout).

Jury on her work and presentation

As one of the four nominees, Karin talked about her research (see below) into an alternative vaccination route to provide protection against tuberculosis. The jury were positive about the content of her work and the ‘translatable nature’ of the study or, in other words, the (possible) applicability of research in the clinic. The jury also praised the way in which Karin explained the ‘complex matter’ in a clear manner. As well as the award, she won a cash prize of €500 made available by Elsevier Immunology Letters.

Significant contribution to the field of immunology

BPRC is proud of Karin and the fact that BPRC's scientific doctoral research is being honoured in this way. ‘It's great that colleagues regard our work as a significant contribution to the field of immunology’, says Frank Verreck, head of BPRC’s tuberculosis research team. ‘And for a young researcher like Karin, this prize is of course a wonderful incentive to continue.’

The last word goes to Karin herself: ‘It’s great that these colleagues acknowledge the importance of this research and appreciated the quality of my presentation in this way. The fact that I got to stand on the main stage and that my work was also rewarded is a huge honour.’

What is Karin's PhD research about?

Karin Dijkman published an article about her research in the leading journal Nature Medicine in early 2019. The most striking finding of her research is that the preventive effect of the existing TB vaccine BCG is stronger when administered via the airways rather than (as customary) via the skin.

Given this so-called ‘mucosal vaccination’, highly sensitive rhesus monkeys appear to be protected not only against disease but even against the infection as such. In addition, Karin discovered unique immune system responses during mucosal BCG administration, possibly explaining why such an alternative vaccination strategy works better than the traditional method. You can read more in this previous press release about her NMED paper (January 2019).