Fredrik Höök receives Sweden’s biggest national prize in physics

Fredrik Höök, Professor in Biological Physics at Chalmers, receives this year’s Göran Gustafsson Prize in physics from The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences. He is awarded the prize for his outstanding research on the cell membrane. He now receives SEK 4.5 million for new research projects that he selects entirely as he sees fit.

Professor Fredrik Höök studies cell membranes using cell-membrane mimics – artificial variants of membrane that coat all cells. He and his research team are currently working on two particularly promising research projects. One focuses on separating membrane proteins for identification of drug targets. The other focuses on viral infection – how virus particles and cell membranes interact when a virus crosses the membrane.


The motivation for the prize reads: “For very successful research within the area of biophysics. It applies, above all, to the development of experimental bioanalytical methods. The aim is to increase the understanding of how biomolecular interactions form the activities in living cells.”

Fredrik Höök explains that he primarily sees the Göran Gustafsson Prize as a reward for a collective effort.

“A few days after finding out that I would receive the prize, I took part in the ski race "Vasaloppet" for the first time, and I didn't exactly reach the finish line among the leaders. I could, however, think to myself that this year I am one of the five best natural scientists! That is up until it struck me that this is an exceptionally bad comparison. Even if this is a personal award, natural scientific research is, in every respect, a collective effort.”


“Therefore, the prize is, first and foremost, an acknowledgement of the efforts made by former and current members of the research team and of all the collaborative partners that we work with and have worked with over the years. I will therefore do whatever I can with the research grant awarded to support the collaborative partnerships we pursue, that are not always so easy to receive funding for.”


The aim of the research is to develop new nanobioscience-based methods to improve the understanding of the very complex cell membrane, which could have an enormous impact on the development of new drugs and treatments of any number of diseases.


What is so special about the research grant that accompanies the Göran Gustafsson Prize is that it is not connected to a specific research plan. Instead, the prizewinner is given the freedom to administer the grant according to his or her own judgement.


“Since 4.5 million kronor is a lot of money, an incredibly big responsibility comes with it,” says Fredrik Höök. So far, I’ve only managed to decide on one thing, and that is that I shall use the grant for the collaborative partnerships that we, in engineering physics, are currently pursuing together with biologists and medics. I also hope to expand the theoretical component of our research, which up until now has not been our strongest side.”


“My hope is that together we can identify bold yet important projects of a true transboundary nature. Projects, preferably, that would not only be difficult to implement without collaboration, but that would be impossible to even identify without interdisciplinary discussions. Furthermore, I hope that such projects would inspire my younger co-workers to dare to take on even more adventurous challenges and interdisciplinary collaborative partnerships.”

 


Illustration of the researchers work aimed at converting the membrane of a live cell into a planar and laterally fluid state in a microfluidic channel (top) for separation of cell-membrane components (bottom right), with one aim being to unravel the way virus particles infect cells (bottom left).

 

Fredrik Höök is active in Chalmers Areas of Advance Nanoscience and Nanotechnology, and Materials Science.

 

Read a press release about the research on virus:

http://www.chalmers.se/en/news/Pages/Quicker-testing-for-viral-infections-saves-money-and-lives.aspx

 

Read about The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences:

http://www.kva.se/en/

 

Contact:
Professor Fredrik Höök, Department of Applied Physics, Chalmers, +46 31 772 61 30, +46 70 895 12 39,
fredrik.hook@chalmers.se