One of NAVBO's highest honors, 2023 Earl P. Benditt award

Pr Kristy Red-Horse (Stanford University, NAVBO President) & Pr Miikka Vikkula (22/10/2023)

(NAVBO annoucement)

The NAVBO Meritorious Awards Committee and NAVBO Council are pleased to announce the selection of Miikka Vikkula, MD, PhD, as the 2023 recipient of the Earl P. Benditt Award, in recognition of his numerous contributions to our understanding of the genetic basis of lymphatic and vascular anomalies. Dr. Vikkula will present the Benditt Lecture, titled “From pathophysiology of vascular malformations towards therapeutic trials,” and receive the award, one of NAVBO's highest honors, at Vascular Biology 2023 in Newport, Rhode Island, on October 15, 2023.

The research

Dr. Vikkula’s research has focused on discovery of the genetic characteristics that drive development of a variety of vascular anomalies, notably Lymphedema and certain cancers. The work in his laboratory has combined study of primary patient specimens with the crafting of cell-based and animal models in which to probe mechanisms and pilot new approaches to treatment or prevention of vascular anomalies. This work has been facilitated by the application of cutting-edge exome sequencing and an advanced home-grown bioinformatics platform that integrates multiple in-silico analysis programs. Significant among discoveries in Dr. Vikkula’s lab was the ground-breaking recognition in 2009 that more than 50% of sporadic human vascular malformations are associated with somatic mutations in the angiopoietin receptor TIE2. This finding has led to targeting the over-activated endothelial TIE2-PI3K-AKT-mTOR signaling axis as a novel therapeutic strategy.

The impact of Dr. Vikkula’s work has been recognized by a number of keynote lectureships and awards, including the Eugène de Sommer Scientific Award from the Catholic University (2006) and FNRS’s Lambertine-Lacroix Prize (2010). In addition to funding from the FNRS, Dr. Vikkula has developed fruitful research collaborations supported by the NIH (with Joyce Bischoff) and the Leducq Network of Excellence. He has trained a host of doctoral students and published more than 250 peer-reviewed papers, reviews, and book chapters. Letters in support of Dr. Vikkula’s nomination for the Benditt Award note that his fundamental discoveries have “…allowed a better clinical distinction of lymph/vascular anomalies, making possible a basis for a renewed, extended classification…” system. Moreover, “…Prof Vikkula has laid the foundation for development of new therapeutics which are being tested in clinical trials. His contributions have therefore been of uttermost importance, not only for basic understanding of the healthy blood and lymphatic vasculature, but also for a range of conditions with genetic or acquired diseases for which treatments have been lacking. Thus, like Prof Earl P. Benditt, Prof Vikkula has truly broken scientific barriers with his research and contributions in the field of Vascular and Lymphatic Biology.”

The Prize

This award recognizes an individual who has made an outstanding discovery or developed a concept that has been seminal to our understanding of vascular biology or pathology. It is awarded in memory of Earl P. Benditt (April 15, 1916 - May 27, 1996).

Miikka Vikkula

A native of Finland, Dr. Vikkula earned a medical degree at the University of Helsinki in 1993 and a PhD in Molecular Genetics under Leena Peltonen at the same institution the following year. Having previously been a visiting summer MD/PhD scholar with Darwin Prockop at Thomas Jefferson University, he returned to the US as a Research Associate with Bjorn Olsen at Harvard (1993-1997), funded in part by an NIH Fogarty Fellowship. He joined the de Duve Institute in Brussels as a Guest Investigator in 1997 and the faculty of the Catholic University of Louvain in 2000. Since then, he has risen through the ranks at both institutions and now holds the distinguished titles of Full Professor at the Catholic University, Member of the Directorate of the de Duve Institute, and Honorary Master of Research as designated by Belgium’s National Fund for Scientific Research (FNRS). He is also a Welbio investigator within the WEL Research Institute.

To find out more about Miikka Vikkula's career and work:

Actualités UCLouvain - Miikka Vikkula distingué Outre-Atlantique - 10/05/2023