‘Antibiotics wanted!’ wins Academic Year Prize

Secretary of State Zijlstra slowly opened the large gold envelope containing the name of the winner of the Academic Year Prize 2011. It had been an exciting finale. But there could be only one winner.  And that honour went to the Leiden team of molecular biologist Gilles van Wezel with ‘Antibiotics wanted!’

Public participation

The 'Antibiotics wanted' team is delighted with their victory. Photo: website Academische Jaarprijs

The 'Antibiotics wanted' team is delighted with their victory. Photo: website Academische Jaarprijs

According to the jury, chaired by Paul Schnabel, the researchers of the ‘Antibiotics wanted!’ team had been most successful in indicating how they would ensure active and fruitful participation by the public at large in scientific research.


Sipke Jan Bousema

The team also showed that it is well able to mobilise partner organisations. The presentation was delivered as an episode of Dutch tv programme ‘Klokhuis op locatie’ with Sipke Jan Bousema as presenter and Artis Director Haig Balian as guest.

Antibiotics from a spadeful of earth

The ‘Antibiotics wanted!’ team comprises researchers and students from Leiden University and the Erasmus Medical Centre.  The team's aim is to involve a broad public in the debate surrounding antibiotic resistance and show where antibiotics come from.  The researchers show how easy it is to isolate a wide range of antibiotics from a simple spadeful of earth.  But they also explain why it is nonetheless so difficult to find just the right antibiotic that will provide a solution to multi-resistant hospital bacteria.

Microbiology in secondary school

The team will use the prize of 100,000 euro to make teaching materials available for secondary schools, in packages of one euro each.  According to Van Wezel, microbiology has to gain a much more important place in secondary education. There will also be a temporary exhibition in Museum Boerhaave about resistance, and a permanent exhibition in the microZOO at Artis that is currently under development.  The jury was won over by this broad spectrum approach.

Other teams

The other teams were 'Long Live DNA!' also from Leiden, this time headed by LUMC researcher Ken Kraaijeveld, and the 'Brain in view' team from Maastricht.  This last team won the Labyrint (VPRO) public prize.  The finale was held in the Leiden Concert Hall. 

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Last Modified: 27-10-2011