Gordon receives Balzan Prize – Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis
Jeffrey I. Gordon, MD, Dr. Robert J. Glaser Distinguished University Professor at the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, is this year’s Balzan Prize recipient for his role in founding the field of research on the human gut microbiome and the revolution in understanding gut microbes and their roles in human health and disease.
Each year, the International Balzan Foundation rewards scholarly and scientific achievements, by awarding four prizes in two general categories: Literature, Moral Sciences and Arts; and the physical, mathematical and natural sciences and medicine. The 2021 laureates’ prizes will be presented on July 1 at a ceremony in Bern, Switzerland.
The other scientific prize this year was awarded to Italian physicist Alessandra Buonanno and French physicist Thibault Damour, who were awarded for their research on the detection of gravitational waves. The award for Holocaust and Genocide Studies went to Saul Friedlander, a Holocaust survivor who was honored for his work broadening perspective on the history of the Holocaust. The recipient of the prize for art and archeology of the ancient Near East had not yet been announced Monday, September 13.
Gordon, also director of the Edison Family Center for Genome Sciences & Systems Biology at Washington University School of Medicine, was a pioneer in developing ways to study the tens of billions of microbes that live in the gut and understand their functioning. His work has shown that gut microbes play a causal role in defining our nutritional status. By harnessing this knowledge, Gordon fights the devastating impact of childhood malnutrition by repairing gut microbial communities with therapeutic foods or next-generation probiotics.
“I am incredibly grateful, honored and touched that the Balzan Foundation chose me, and the extraordinary group of students, staff and colleagues I had the chance to work with for this year’s award,” Gordon said. “It is also a great honor to be recognized alongside such esteemed academics in other fields of science and the humanities.”
Together with colleagues in Bangladesh, Gordon developed therapeutic foods designed to support and promote the development of a healthy gut microbiome during the first years of life. A novel therapeutic food has been shown to repair defective development of the microbial community in malnourished children and restore their growth to a normal trajectory. Gordon and his colleagues have also developed prototypes of snack foods that have been formulated to alter the human gut microbiome in such a way that they can be linked to better health.
Gordon has received a number of other awards in recognition of his extraordinary contributions to science and medicine, including the British Royal Society Copley Medal, the Louisa Gross Horwitz Prize and the Keio Medical Science Prize. He is a member of the National Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Medicine, the American Academy of Arts & Sciences, and the American Philosophical Society.