Young Investigator Award winners

These annual EAS prizes for young scientists are intended to recognise distinction shown by publications that contribute to the advancement of knowledge in the field of atherosclerosis and linked metabolic disturbances. Each prize is of € 2,000. 

Announcing the winners of the Young Investigator Awards for outstanding publications during 2023

Basic Science Award

The Award committee’s motivation: “This study demonstrates an elegant and innovative approach, primarily conducted in mice but also leveraging datasets from human coronary arteries. It sheds light on the presence and functional significance of complement-producing macrophages in both murine and human atherosclerotic plaques, providing a unique perspective for complement therapies in atherosclerosis. The inclusion of human specimens within the presented data adds valuable translational insight, emphasizing the potential impact on clinical applications”

  • Article: Cell-autonomous regulation of complement C3 by factor H limits macrophage efferocytosis and exacerbates atherosclerosis
    Published in Immunity, 2023 Aug 8;56(8):1809-1824.e10;
  • Author: Mate Kiss, Department of Laboratory Medicine, Medical University of Vienna, Austria

Máté G. Kiss is currently a postdoctoral fellow in the laboratory of Filip K. Swirski at the Cardiovascular Research Institute of the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, New York. He completed his doctoral studies in the research group of Christoph J. Binder at the Medical University of Vienna, where he examined the effect of local versus systemic complement activation on immune cell function in the context of cardiovascular disease. His ongoing research – which is sponsored by an Erwin Schrödinger Postdoctoral Fellowship and the Friedman Brain Institute’s 2023 Doft Family Postdoc Innovator Award – focuses on identifying novel brain-body communication pathways via sleep preserves adequate adaptive immune responses at the neuro-immune interface to protect from cardiovascular and autoimmune disorders.

Clinical Science Award

The Award committee’s motivation: “This young researcher’s clinical paper, featured in EHJ, impressively navigates the challenge of a short follow-up duration through a thoughtfully structured sequential approach. The paper exhibits meticulous design and presentation, showcasing a unique strength in its ability to maintain clarity despite the abbreviated follow-up period. Noteworthy is the balance struck between a lower sensitivity and commendable specificity in distinguishing between M2 and M15. This achievement
highlights the researcher’s acumen in methodological precision, offering a promising outlook for their
future contributions to clinical research.

  • Article: Significance of lipids, lipoproteins, and apolipoproteins during the first 14-16 months of life
    Published in the European Heart Journal (2023;44:4408-4418;
  • Author: Sofie Taageby Nielsen, Department of Clinical Biochemistry, Rigshospitalet & University of Copenhagen, Denmark

Sofie Taageby Nielsen has been an integral part of the Copenhagen Baby Heart Study (CBHS) since 2018. Initially tasked with administrative duties, participant recruitment, and data collection, including venipunctures from newborns and parents, her role has evolved into a supervisory position for a sub-study within CBHS. STN provides day-to-day guidance to three medical students and collaborates closely with senior researchers. With a profound understanding of CBHS data, she actively supervises research projects within the cohort.
With extensive experience in research, clinical practice, and academic pursuits, STN has played a pivotal role in various healthcare and research settings, demonstrating a commitment to advancing medical knowledge and patient care.

Acknowledgement and thanks

The EAS extends its gratitude to the members of the EAS Award Committee for their invaluable time and expertise dedicated to reviewing and evaluating the nominations received for these awards.
We thank Prof Philippe Moulin and Prof Zeljko Reiner for chairing the Clinical Science Award, and we thank Prof Ruth Frikke-Schmidt and Prof Zeljko Reiner for chairing the Basic Science Award.
The high standard of nominations received is truly encouraging for the future of research in the field.

Previous Award winners

Winners of the Young Investigator Awards for outstanding publications during 2022

Basic Science Award

The Award committee’s motivation: “This highly innovative study demonstrated that the peripheral nervous system uses neuroimmune cardiovascular interfaces to assemble a structural artery–brain circuit, and that therapeutic intervention in the artery–brain circuit attenuates atherosclerosis. Although neuroimmune interactions have been described previously, the identification of the structural artery-brain circuit may establish a new disease paradigm.
This paper is paradigm changing for the field and has all the different aspects, mouse and human work included.”

Dr Sarajo Mohanta
  • Article: Neuroimmune cardiovascular interfaces control atherosclerosis
  • Published in: Nature | Vol 605 | 5 May 2022
  • Author: Sarajo Mohanta, Institute for Cardiovascular Prevention (IPEK), Ludwig-Maximilians-University (LMU) Munich

Dr Mohanta studied veterinary medicine in India followed by a master in biomedicine degree in the United Kingdom graduating among the best of his year. He completed his doctoral thesis on vascular biology at the Institute for Vascular Medicine at Friedrich-Schiller-University Jena under the supervision of Prof A. Habenicht.
After graduation, he joined the Institute for Cardiovascular Prevention (IPEK, Director: Prof C. Weber) at Ludwig-Maximilians-University (LMU) Munich to pursue a career as postdoctoral research fellow with a special interest in vascular biology and atherosclerosis.
He recently demonstrated a crucial functional role of neuroimmune cardiovascular interfaces and artery-brain circuit in atherosclerosis (Nature 2022).

Dr Mohanta is currently a group leader IPEK LMU Munich. His research aims to investigate the neuroimmune circuitry in atherosclerosis. He received funding from the German Research Council, the Bauer Foundation and the Corona foundation.

Clinical Science Award

The Award committee’s motivation: “An excellent and innovative research with special clinical interest as the study has proven efficacy of dietary manipulation on CV outcomes in the context of secondary prevention. Very important and confirmative trial, highly needed.”

Dr Juan F. Alcalá-Díaz
  • Article: Long-term secondary prevention of cardiovascular disease with a Mediterranean diet and a low-fat diet (CORDIOPREV): a randomised controlled trial
  • Published in: The Lancet | Published Online | May 4 2022
  • Author: Juan F Alcalá-Díaz, Maimonides Biomedical Research Institute of Cordoba (IMIBIC), Reina Sofia University Hospital, University of Cordoba, Spain

Juan F. Alcalá-Díaz is an Internal Medicine specialist at Reina Sofia University Hospital (Cordoba, Spain) and a researcher at the Maimonides Biomedical Research Institute of Cordoba (IMIBIC). He completed his PhD studies in Biomedicine under Dr José López-Miranda and Dr. Javier Delgado Lista’s guidance at the University of Córdoba, and holds Master’s degrees in “Nutrition and Metabolism” and “Bioinformatics and Computational Biology”. With over 12 years of experience as a clinical researcher, his scientific activity has been primarily focused on studying the effect of diet on the expression of cardiovascular disease and its risk factors, the biological mechanisms associated with atherosclerosis, and the gene-environment interactions. Regarding research indicators, Dr Alcalá has currently 86 papers indexed in PubMed, more than 2450 citations and an H-Index of 25.

Currently, Dr Alcalá-Díaz leads a Precision Nutrition national project financed by the Ministery of Health of Spain (Institute of Health Carlos III, ISCIII) aimed at discovering new relationships between gene/nutrition interactions and the pathophysiology of atherosclerosis.

Acknowledgement and thanks

The Society is grateful to the members of the Award Committee, Chaired by Prof Ruth Frikke-Schmidt & Prof Zeljko Reiner, who gave their time and expertise in the review and evaluation of the nominations received for these awards. There were many nominations of a very high standard – an encouraging sign for the future of research in the field!

Winners of the Young Investigator Awards for outstanding publications during 2021

Dimitris Tsiantoulas

Basic Science Award

  • Article: APRIL limits atherosclerosis by binding to heparan sulphate proteoglycans
  • Published in: Nature volume 597, pages 92–96 (2021) 
    Doi: 10.1038/s41586-021-03818-3
  • Author: Dimitris Tsiantoulas, Medical University of Vienna

    Dimitrios Tsiantoulas completed his PhD studies in Christoph Binder’s group at the Medical University of Vienna and at the CeMM Research Center for Molecular Medicine of the Austrian Academy of Sciences. After graduating, he worked as a post-doc, funded by the British Heart Foundation, in Ziad Mallat’s group at the University of Cambridge. He is currently a research group leader at the Medical University of Vienna. His research aims to dissect the molecular machinery that governs the functions of APRIL and B cells in atherosclerosis and myocardial infarction.

Amand F. Schmidt

Clinical Science Award

  • Article: Cholesteryl ester transfer protein (CETP) as a drug target for cardiovascular disease
  • Published in: Nature Communications volume 12, Article number: 5640 (2021)
    Doi: 10.1038/s41467-021-25703-3 
  • Author: Amand F. Schmidt, UCL, London

    A. Floriaan Schmidt has received training in public health, clinical epidemiology, and mathematics. Floriaan completed a PhD on methods for personalized medicine with the Utrecht University in the Netherlands. Following his PhD, he accepted a position with University College London. Here Floriaan developed the necessary mathematical framework underpinning the principles of drug target validation using human genetics (Nature Communications 2021).

    Dr Schmidt is a Senior Research Follow with the Institute of Cardiovascular Science at UCL, and holds an Associate Professorship with the Heart and Lungs department at UMC Utrecht in the Netherlands. Floriaan received funding from the British Heart Foundation, the National Institute for Health Research University College London Hospitals Biomedical Research Centre, Servier and Erasmus+.

Acknowledgement and thanks

The Society is grateful to the members of the Award Committee, Chaired by Prof Ruth Frikke-Schmidt & Prof Zeljko Reiner, who gave their time and expertise in the review and evaluation of the nominations received for these awards.

Winners of the Young Investigator Awards for outstanding publications during 2020

Anna Wolska

Basic Science Award 2020

  • Article: A dual apolipoprotein C-II mimetic – apolipoprotein C-III antagonist peptide lowers plasma triglycerides. 
  • Published in: Science Translational Medicine, Sci Transl Med 2020, 12(528): eaaw7905. DOI: 10.1126/scitranslmed.aaw7905
  • Author: Anna Wolska

    Anna Wolska is a researcher in projects related to new methods for estimation of lipids/lipoproteins in diagnostics and atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease risk.
    She is also lead researcher, along with industrial collaborators, on projects focused on mimetic peptides as potential therapies for hypertriglyceridemia. Co-inventor on U.S. patents related to the therapeutic use of apolipoprotein C-II mimetic peptides.
Ida Juul Rasmussen

Clinical Science Award 2020

  • Article: Impact of cardiovascular risk factors and genetics on 10-year absolute risk of dementia: risk charts for targeted prevention.
  • Published in: European Heart Journal, Eur Heart J 2020;41:4024-4033.
  • Author: Ida Juul Rasmussen

    Ida Juul Rasmussen was born in 1984 in Copenhagen, Denmark. She is MD, PhD from the University of Copenhagen. She is currently in clinical training in Clinical Biochemistry where she pursues translational research with special focus on the vascular parts of dementia by integrating modifiable atherogenic risk factors, blood biomarkers and genetics in identification of high-risk groups for targeted prevention of dementia.

Winners of the Young Investigator Awards for outstanding publications during 2019

Thimoteus Speer

Basic Science Award 2019

  • Article: Apolipoprotein C3 induces inflammation and organ damage by alternative inflammasome activation.
  • Published in: Nature Immunology.
  • Author: Thimoteus Speer
Antoine Rimbert & Nawar Dalila

Clinical Science Award

  • Article: A common variant in CCDC93 protects against myocardial infarction and cardiovascular mortality by regulating endosomal trafficking of low-density lipoprotein receptor.
  • Published in: European Heart Journal. 2019 Oct 19. pii: ehz727.
    DOI: 10.1093/eurheartj/ehz727
  • Authors (joint first authors): Antoine Rimbert and Nawar Dalila

About the winners and their papers

The Basic Science winner, Timo Speer, was born 1981 in Zweibrücken, Germany. He is Head of Experimental and Translational Nephrology at Sarland University in Homburg, Germany. He has a longstanding translational interest in the importance of lipid biology for inflammatory mechanisms in cardiovascular and renal diseases. His strength is to bring together cutting edge technologies and scientists from basic science, genetics, lipidology, cardiology, immunology and his home-base, nephrology.

The data in his Award-winning paper reveal a novel and important link between triglyceride-rich lipoproteins and vascular inflammation. Using molecular methodology, animal models and human studies, Timo Speer´s paper shows that apolipoprotein C3 (ApoC3) activates the NLRP3 inflammasome in human monocytes by inducing an alternative NLRP3 inflammasome via caspase-8 and dimerization of Toll-like receptors 2 and 4. Alternative inflammasome activation in human monocytes is mediated by the Toll-like receptor adapter protein SCIMP. This triggers Lyn/Syk-dependent calcium entry and the production of reactive oxygen species, leading to activation of caspase-8. In humanized mouse models, ApoC3 activated human monocytes in vivo to impede endothelial regeneration and promote kidney injury in an NLRP3- and caspase-8-dependent manner.

These data provide new insights into the regulation of the NLRP3 inflammasome and the pathophysiological role of triglyceride-rich lipoproteins containing ApoC3. As potential clinical consequence, Timo Speer’s work suggests that targeting ApoC3 might prevent organ damage and provide an anti-inflammatory treatment for vascular and kidney diseases.

The Clinical Science award-winning paper, with joint first authors Antoine Rimbert and Nawar Dalila, is on the subject of an intracellular process – almost exclusively studied by cellular biologists to date – in regulating plasma lipid levels and its effects on atherosclerosis in humans. The results show for the first time that endosomal recycling of lipoprotein receptors in the liver affects plasma levels of cholesterol and thereby risk of myocardial infarction and cardiovascular morbidity. 

The first authors of this study have been mutually dependent on making this study possible.

Acknowledgement and thanks

The Society is grateful to the members of the Award Committee 2016-2020, Chaired by Prof Petri Kovanen & Prof Christoph Binder, and additional reviewers who gave their time and expertise in the review and evaluation of the nominations received for these awards.