Swiss Heart Foundation Research Prize 2020

Publication Date: 03.07.2020
Cardiovasc Med. 2020;23:w02112

Lüscher Thomas F., Camici Giovanni G.

In 1980, the Swiss Heart Foundation established a research prize, which ever since has been awarded to clinicians and scientists working in cardiovascular medicine or surgery, generally on a yearly basis. The Swiss Heart Foundation is proud to see that many of its awardees later became leaders in their field and some became chairs of the finest academic institutions in Switzerland (table 1).

Table 1

Swiss Heart Foundation Research Prize awardees. The medical titles of the award winners correspond to the status at the time of the respective award ceremony. In the meantime, around 30 prize winners have been awarded the title of professor.

1981PD Dr. Felix Gutzwiller and PD Dr. Bernard Junod
1982PD Dr. Matthias Pfisterer and Dr. Otto M. Hess
1983PD Dr. Lukas Kappenberger
1984PD Dr. Marc Zimmermann
1985PD Dr. André Kléber
1986PD Dr. René Lerch
1987PD Dr. Bernhard Meier
1988Dr. Thomas Felix Lüscher
1989Dr. François Chappuis
1990Dr. Werner Inauen
1991PD Dr. Ludwig Karl von Segesser
1992PD Dr. Wolfgang Kiowski
1993PD Dr. Martin Fromer
1994Dr. Stephan Maier and Dr. Guiseppe Vassalli
1995Dr. Beat J. Meyer
1996PD Dr. Dan Atar
1997PD Dr. Philip Urban sowie Dr. Zhihong Yang
1999PD Dr. Christian Seiler
2000PD Dr. Vincent Mooser
2001PD Dr. Philipp Kaufmann
2002PD Dr. Patrick Hunziker
2003PD Dr. Xavier M. Mueller
2004Dr. Marcel Arnold and Dr. Krassen Nedeltchev
2005PD Dr. Marco Roffi sowie Prof. Dr. Christian Müller
2006Prof. Dr. Etienne Delacrétaz
2007Dr. Christoph Kaiser
2008PD Dr. Stefan Engelter sowie Dr. Jean-François Surmely
2009Dr. Christoph Huber
2010PD Dr. David Conen
2011Dr. Leo Bonati sowie Dr. Tobias Reichlin
2012PD Dr. Giacomo Simonetti
2013Dr. Georg Ehret
2014PD Dr. Andreas Flammer
2015PD Dr. Stefan Freigang
2016Dr. Jelena-Rima Ghadri and PD Dr. Christian Templin
2017Dr. David Nanchen and Dr. David Seiffge
2018PD Dr. Henrik Gensicke
2019Dr. Raphael Twerenbold
2020Prof. Dr. Giovanni G. Camici

Due to the change of the financial year to the calendar year, the Swiss Heart Foundation did not award a research prize in 1998.

The research prize is preferentially given to young consultants and research group leaders who have already established themselves in their field of interest. As such therefore, and unlike other research awards in cardiovascular medicine in Switzerland, the Swiss Heart Foundation Research Prize is not given for a single outstanding publication or discovery, but rather for the body of scientific achievement in the middle of a promising career. Thus, awardees are typically 35–45 years of age. With their research prize, the Swiss Heart Foundation aims to motivate such promising leaders of the next generation to continue their academic path to the benefit of cardiovascular science and eventually also patients with cardiovascular disease.

This year, the 10 members of the Swiss Heart Foundation’s research committee led by their president Professor Thomas F. Lüscher from London and Zurich, received 11 excellent and in some cases outstanding applications from many Swiss institutions. This years’ awardee is Giovanni G. Camici PhD, Assistent Professor of Vascular Biology at the University of Zurich and Director of the Centre of Molecular Cardiology at the Schlieren Campus (fig. 1).

Figure 1
Professors Thomas F. Lüscher and Giovanni G. Camici.

The president of the Swiss Heart Foundation’s research committee, Professor Thomas F. Lüscher interviewed this years’ awardee and asked Giovanni G. Camici the following questions:

1. What was your professional education like?

I studied biology at Queen Mary University of London in the United Kingdom and after a short working experience at the Hammersmith hospital of the Imperial College, London, I moved to Switzerland in 2002. I then worked for 2 years at the University of Zurich, in the Cardiovascular Research Unit of the Institute of Physiology at the Irchel Campus of the University of Zurich. After that I did my PhD at the University of Fribourg, Switzerland.

In 2007 I started as a full time postdoc at the Cardiovascular Research Laboratories of the University of Zurich. In 2010 I became group leader, in 2013 Privatdozent and in 2017 Assistant Professor in Vascular Biology at the University of Zurich.

2. Why did you decide to study biology?

I was always intrigued by human biology ever since I was a young boy. Certainly, the fact that in my family there are several physicians and scientists played an important role. However, also my biology teacher during secondary school played an important role. She was an excellent teacher and motivated me to learn and think “outside the box”.

3. What were you most interesting achievements in science?

I believe that my work on aging represents one of the most important contributions I made to science. Age is a crucial risk factor for the development of cardiovascular disease. However, little is known about how age and aging per se favours the development of cardiovascular disease. My work demonstrated that genes controlling life span not only determine how long we live, but also mediate the development of age-dependent cardiovascular diseases such as vascular dysfunction, myocardial infarction and stroke, thus underscoring once again the tight link between age and cardiovascular disease.

4. What have you done and are you doing for your young students and post docs?

Working with my team and caring for their development is perhaps one of the best aspects of my job. What is important for me is that my fellows develop their own ideas, and I see my role in teaching them how to express their ideas and turn them into concrete projects. I believe this is central for becoming an independent scientist. Also, I always remain available even after they leave my group and move on with their careers; often, ex-fellows come back to me to ask for advice, reference letters or help in finding a job and I always enjoy remaining a reference point for them. I think this is an important aspect of my job.

5. What are the next steps in your research?

Having developed the tools and know-how for studying aging I wish to capitalise on this and decipher the contributions of different mediators of age-dependent cardiovascular disease. In particular, I have now turned my attention to inflamm-aging, which is an interesting new concept representing a possible link between age and cardiovascular disease.

6. What do you do outside of science?

I devote a large part of my life to working. When I am not working, I enjoy spending time with my family and one of our favourite activities is travelling together and exploring different sea locations. Beside this, I have a long standing passion for cars and in particular vintage cars so whenever possible, I like to participate to classic cars races or static events. I often share this passion with my father.

Due to the COVID-19 epidemic, this years’ Swiss Heart Foundation Research Prize could not be handed over during the traditional ceremony usually scheduled in the spring each year. Indeed, unfortunately the planned event in Lausanne this spring had to be cancelled and thus Giovanni G. Camici received the award from the president of the Swiss Heart Foundation Professor Ludwig K. von Segesser from Lausanne in a private event (figure 2).

Figure 2
Professors Ludwig K. von Segesser, Giovanni G. Camici and Thomas F. Lüscher.

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