Microbiologist Jorge Galan wins prestigious Koch Prize

Yale professor Jorge Galan has been named winner of the 2011 Koch Award, one of the most prestigious awards in the field of microbiology.

Galan — who is the Lucille P. Markey Professor of Microbial Pathogenesis, professor of cell biology and chair of the Section of Microbial Pathogenesis at Yale School of Medicine — was honored for his work in describing how food-borne pathogens such as Salmonella and Campylobacter cause so much damage.

“Jorge Galan’s research is a very beautiful story about the mechanisms by which pathogens create their toxic effects,” says Carolyn Slayman, deputy dean for academic and science affairs at Yale. “Jorge is quite eloquent about the public health risks associated with emerging pathogens. This is a well-deserved recognition.

Several previous winners of the award have gone on to be awarded Nobel Prizes.

Galan’s lab features a cross-disciplinary approach to understanding an essential feature of the pathogenicity of Salmonella and Campylobacter — i.e., the ability of host cell and pathogen to engage in a two-way biochemical interaction, or cross talk. Understanding these mechanism has already led to the identification of several ways to intervene in infections of these bacteria, which cause millions of illnesses each year.

“With his pioneer research on mechanisms of bacterial pathogenesis he contributed substantially to the foundation of the cellular microbiology as a scientific field,” the Koch Foundation award statement said.

Ernst-Ludwig Winnacker, secretary general of the international Human Frontier Science Program Organization in Strasbourg, France, was also honored by the foundation.

The award given by the Koch Foundation carries a prize of 100,000 euros and honors the work of the German scientist who sought a cure for tuberculosis in the early part of the 20th century.