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EMBO Gold Medal 2012 awarded to Jiøí Friml

EMBO today announced Jiøí Friml of the Department of Plant Systems Biology, VIB and Ghent University, Belgium and Central European Institute of Technology, University Brno, Czech Republic as the winner of the 2012 EMBO Gold Medal.

Friml receives the award for defining how the plant hormone auxin functions to regulate plant development. He was also recognized for showing how the auxin-governed molecular processes optimise adaptation of plant development and growth to ever-changing environmental conditions.

The 39-year-old scientist has published more than 130 original research publications and reviews in top international journals and belongs to the most cited plant biologists worldwide.

“His groundbreaking results influence and continue to shape present and future efforts in a number of areas of plant biology research,” stated EMBO Member Ferenc Nagy. The results of Friml’s research are of major importance to agriculture as they provide a basis for targeted engineering that could lead to the development of plants that produce higher yields or which are more resistant to drought.

“Being awarded by my peers from EMBO is an immense honour and gives me great encouragement for my further work. I would like to think that this award is not only for me but also in a wider sense for plant research which deserves more support and could definitely benefit from more awareness,” said the Gold Medal winner.

Jiøí Friml’s research highlights include:

- Showing that transport-dependent morphogenetic auxin gradients and maxima underlie processes such as embryonal development, formation of all plant organs, differentiation and regeneration of tissues as well as responses to external signals such as light and gravity
- Establishing the concept that auxin acts as a versatile trigger providing spatial and temporal information to reprogram cellular behavior
- Demonstrating the clathrin-mediated mechanism of endocytosis in plants along with the developmental significance of this process in the field of plant cell biology

- Revealing mechanisms that govern cell polarity in plants and its importance for both hormonal signaling and development

Career stages

Jiøí Friml performed his PhD work at the Max Planck Institute for Plant Breeding Research in Cologne, Germany, and obtained his PhD in Biology from the University of Cologne in 2000. He was also awarded a PhD in Biochemistry in 2002 from Masaryk University in Brno, Czech Republic. In his doctoral studies, he was already providing crucial insight into the mechanisms of transport and distribution of auxin and its role in plant development. For his outstanding scientific contributions during his PhD studies, the Max Planck Society awarded him the prestigious Otto-Hahn Medal.

After finishing his doctoral studies, he received a grant from the Volkswagen Foundation to start his independent research group. At the age of 33, Friml became a professor and head of the Institute of Plant Cell Biology in Göttingen, Germany. Currently, he is a professor in the Department of Plant Systems Biology at the University of Ghent and head of a research group at the Flanders Institute of Biotechnology in Ghent. He also holds an appointment with the Central European Institute of Technology, University Brno, Czech Republic. Friml will move to The Institute of Science and Technology, Austria, at the end of 2012.

The achievements of the Czech-born scientist have been internationally recognised: he was elected a member of EMBO, he is a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and the recipient of the Heinz-Meyer Leibnitz prize and the Körber European Science Award.

Jiøí Friml will receive the EMBO Gold Medal and an award of 10,000 euros on 23 September 2012 at The EMBO Meeting in Nice where he will give a lecture about his research.

Yvonne Kaul | idw
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