Contact: Alexander Shtifman
Phone: 617-713-8989
alex...@childrens.harvard.edu

Hidde Ploegh, Ph.D., senior investigator at the Immune Disease Institute, has been awarded the prestigious InBev-Baillet Latour Health Prize for 2006. The prize was given for outstanding achievements on the theme of "Immunology and/or Infectious Diseases," and specifically for Ploegh's pioneering work on the means viruses employ to evade the body's immune defenses.

Ploegh received the award from the hands of Royal Princess Mathilde during an official ceremony held at the Palais des Academies in Brussels on May 9, 2006. Worth 150,000 euros (roughly $190,000), the InBev-Baillet Latour Health Prize aims to encourage basic research that benefits human health.

The prize was founded in 1974 by Count Baillet Latour, longtime board member of Artois Breweries. To learn more, visit http://www.inbev-baillet-latour.com/en/home.asp.

As noted on his lab page on this web site, the Ploegh Lab studies several cellular processes involved in the normal function of the immune system -- in particular, antigen processing and presentation in molecules of the Major Histocompatibility (MHC) chromosomal region. In the past several years the lab has studied viral proteins that interfere with these processes, attempting to define the molecular mechanism of the interference.

Ploegh's work has implications for development of more effective treatments of infectious diseases; in particular Ploegh has researched the human cytomegalovirus, a member of the herpes family. While this virus is generally and harmlessly carried in the adult population, it is dangerous to people with compromised immune systems, as well as to infants and recipients of organ transplants.

Hidde Ploegh received his Ph.D. in biochemistry from the State University of Leiden, the Netherlands. From 1981 to 1992, he held scientific posts in Europe, including head of the Department of Cellular Biochemistry at the Netherlands Cancer Institute in Amsterdam. In 1992, he came to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology as professor of biology, and in 1997 accepted positions at IDI and Harvard Medical School, where for many years he directed the graduate program in immunology.

In addition to his position with the Immune Disease Institute, Ploegh is now a professor of biology at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a member of the Whitehead Institute.