News News from Hungary Hun­gar­i­an Neu­ro­bi­ol­o­gist Botond Ros­ka to Receive This Year’s Kör­ber Euro­pean Sci­ence Prize

Hun­gar­i­an Neu­ro­bi­ol­o­gist Botond Ros­ka to Receive This Year’s Kör­ber Euro­pean Sci­ence Prize

Botond Ros­ka, a Hun­gar­i­an neu­ro­bi­ol­o­gist research­ing in Switzer­land, will receive the Kör­ber Foundation’s pres­ti­gious award, the Kör­ber Euro­pean Sci­ence Prize, which rec­og­nizes a sin­gle Euro­pean sci­en­tist each year, alter­nat­ing between life sci­ences and phys­i­cal sci­ences. The Hun­gar­i­an physi­cian, “one of the world’s lead­ing experts in the study of vision and the reti­na”, is to be award­ed for his work that “rev­o­lu­tionised ophthalmology.”

Accord­ing to the web­site of the Kör­ber Foun­da­tion, the Hun­gar­i­an neu­ro­bi­ol­o­gist Botond Ros­ka has set him­self the goal of restor­ing sight to the blind. Ros­ka and his research group in Switzer­land inves­ti­gate how var­i­ous cell types in the visu­al sys­tem extract visu­al infor­ma­tion from the envi­ron­ment. Based on mol­e­c­u­lar mech­a­nisms, they have designed nov­el gene ther­a­pies for restor­ing vision in genet­ic forms of blind­ness. The sci­en­tist has car­ried out pio­neer­ing work to iden­ti­fy approx­i­mate­ly one hun­dred dif­fer­ent cell types in the reti­na and their com­plex inter­play in sig­nal processing.

The Kör­ber Euro­pean Sci­ence Prize hon­ors out­stand­ing and excel­lent sci­en­tists work­ing in Europe. The prize is award­ed to research projects that show great poten­tial for pos­si­ble appli­ca­tion and inter­na­tion­al impact. In the last ten years alone, the Kör­ber Prize win­ners includ­ed six sci­en­tists who were lat­er award­ed the Nobel Prize.

Ros­ka is now work­ing on mak­ing these fun­da­men­tal insights ben­e­fi­cial for patients and using gene ther­a­pies to alle­vi­ate or cure their dis­eases. A  gen­uine break­through was achieved by repro­gram­ming a cell type in the eye, enabling it to take over the func­tion of defec­tive light recep­tor cells. He was thus able to make blind reti­nas light-sen­si­tive again – and clin­i­cal tri­als with blind peo­ple have already begun.

In 2019, Ros­ka was award­ed the Louis-Jean­tet Prize for Med­i­cine for the dis­cov­ery of basic prin­ci­ples of visu­al infor­ma­tion pro­cess­ing and the devel­op­ment of ther­a­peu­tic strate­gies, such as gene ther­a­py, to restore vision in reti­nal dis­or­ders. He is also the first Hun­gar­i­an to earn the Bressler Prize for his vision-restor­ing ther­a­py, and the Alden Spencer Prize for under­stand­ing the vision process.

Lat­er last year, Pres­i­dent János Áder dec­o­rat­ed the neu­ro­bi­ol­o­gist with the Hun­gar­i­an Saint Stephen Order on August 20th, Hungary’s nation­al hol­i­day. Áder referred to Ros­ka as a “doc­tor who does not treat patients but enables oth­ers to heal through his research.”

The father of the world-renowned researcher was elec­tri­cal engi­neer Tamás Ros­ka, founder of the research of neur­al net­works in Hun­gary. Botond Ros­ka, although first study­ing cel­lo at the Liszt Fer­enc Acad­e­my of Music in Budapest, had to give up his music career because of an injury. He lat­er received his med­ical degree from Sem­mel­weis Uni­ver­si­ty, a PhD in neu­ro­bi­ol­o­gy from the Uni­ver­si­ty of Cal­i­for­nia, Berke­ley, and stud­ied genet­ics and virol­o­gy at Har­vard Uni­ver­si­ty. Ros­ka cur­rent­ly works in Basel, Switzer­land as co-direc­tor of the Insti­tute of Oph­thal­mol­o­gy Basel (IOB).

The Kör­ber Euro­pean Sci­ence Prize 2020 will be pre­sent­ed to Ros­ka on 7 Sep­tem­ber in the Great Fes­ti­val Hall of Ham­burg City Hall.

fea­tured pho­to: Noé­mi Bruzák/MTI

Source: hun​gary​to​day​.hu / Kaszás Fanni