Infectious diseases in childhood

Why do some children become seriously ill while others do not?

The renowned Ilse and Helmut Wachter Award will be awarded at the Innsbruck Medical University for the seventh time. On Saturday, the 1st of December, the world-famous paediatrician, biochemist and immunologist Professor Jean-Laurent Casanova will be presented with the prestigious award for his ground-breaking research into the genetics of infectious diseases in children.

Innsbruck, 30/11/2012: One of the most fundamental questions in the field of infectious diseases is: Why do only a small proportion of infected children develop clinical diseases? One example is diseases associated with the herpes virus: In rare cases, it can lead to serious complications or an inflammation of the brain in children and adolescents. This year's Ilse and Helmut Wachter Award awardee, Professor Jean-Laurent Casanova, was the first to come up with the hypothesis that a certain combination of congenital single gene disorders may have a negative influence on immunity, resulting in the occurrence of severe diseases in children. The paediatrician and immunologist, who has become famous around the world, has identified and characterised a new class of gene disorders which predispose apparently healthy children to the development of specific infections. As a result, he was able to shed light on the molecular genetic causes of various childhood diseases. This includes the herpes virus infection mentioned above, along with mycobacterial diseases, invasive pneumococcal diseases and chronic mucocutaneous candiasis (rare fungal infection). "The study results of the award-winning researcher and paediatrician not only provide a basis for genetic consultation, but also form the foundations for the development of new therapeutic options," explains university Professor Dr Lukas Huber, Chairman of the Ilse and Helmut Wachter Foundation's Executive Committee and Director of the Biocenter at Innsbruck Medical University with regards to the reasons for the prize committee's decisions. "This year, many outstanding personalities were once again nominated for the Ilse and Helmut Wachter Award. Professor Casanova combines the expertise of a paediatrician, immunologist and geneticist at a high level", commented university Professor Dr Thomas Müller from the Innsbruck University Clinic of Paediatrics I on the award presented to his renowned colleague.

Globally networked collaboration is benefiting young patients
The knowledge discovered by Professor Casanova is now benefiting young patients around the world, including those in Innsbruck. "We have already sent samples to Professor Casanova when we suspected that it may be one of the rare diseases he has identified," explains Professor Müller. These worldwide cooperation networks are common in high-end university medicine. For example, samples obtained from new-borns are often sent to Innsbruck if a rare form of congenital diarrhoea, microvillus inclusion disease (MVID), is suspected. Innsbruck Medical University is one of the world's leading centres for the diagnosis and research of MVID and has special expertise in the field of rare diseases.

About the awardee
Professor Casanova has been working as a researcher at The Rockefeller University in New York since 2008. Together with his team, the learned biochemist, physician and immunologist set out to discover why some children develop diseases as a result of infection, while other children with the same infection show no symptoms. He studied in Paris before being appointed as Professor of Paediatrics, Paediatric Immunology-Haematology in 1999. He worked at the Necker Hospital and School of Medicine in Paris until 2008. In 2008, he moved to New York. Professor Casanova is a member of the European Molecular Biology Organization (EMBO) and the American Society for Clinical Investigation. Professor Casanova has won numerous awards, including the Richard Lounsbery Award from the French and U.S. Academy of Science in 2008, the Oswald Avery Award 2009 from the American Society for Infectious Diseases and the 2011 Inbev Baillet-Latour Health Prize from the Baillet-Latour Foundation in Belgium. The renowned researcher has written 255 original publications and has 18,839 citations.

About the Ilse & Helmut Wachter Award
The Ilse and Helmut Wachter Award is one of the world's most highly valued academic awards (prize money: € 15,000.00) and is awarded for outstanding achievements in the field of medical research. The quality of the nominations is high. For example, the prize was awarded the two Israeli biochemists Professor Avram Hershko and Professor Aaron Ciechanover in 1999, who went on to receive the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 2004. The establishment of the Ilse and Helmut Wachter Award at the Innsbruck Medical University and its Foundation of the same name was the result of the life-long dream of university Professor Dr Helmut Wachter, the late former head of the Institute of Medical Chemistry and Biochemistry at the Medical School of the University of Innsbruck who passed away in January 2012. By creating this award, Dr Wachter hoped to show his ties with the Medical University and promote the university's global image. The award celebrates scientific excellence in all fields of medicine, and is open to male and female scientists of all nationalities. The awardee is chosen by the foundation's bodies from nominations made around the world.
The "Ilse & Helmut Wachter Foundation" awards a cash prize through the Innsbruck Medical University for outstanding achievements in the field of medicine to develop medical sciences for the benefit of mankind, thereby contributing to the reputation of the Innsbruck Medical University.
For more information go to:

Executive Committee:
  University Prof Dr Lukas Huber, Executive Director and Scientific Director of the Biocenter
Head of the Division of Cell Biology - Innsbruck Medical University
  ao. University Prof Dr Dietmar Fuchs, Biocenter - Innsbruck Medical University
  Dr Günter Unterleitner, CEO of myPEX Consulting

Previous awardees:
 2010 awardee: William A. Catterall for his outstanding research in the field of ion channel research
 2007 awardee: Irving L. Weissman for his pioneering work in stem cell research
 2005 awardee: Cynthia J. Kenyon for the discovery of mechanisms regulating the aging process in C. elegans
 2003 awardee: Wolfgang P. Baumeister for the elucidation of the structure and mechanism of the proteasome
 2001 awardee: Prof Dr Hanns Möhler for the elucidation of the effect of benzodiazepines on fear
 1999 awardees: Prof Dr Avram Hershko & Prof Dr Aaron Ciechanover for the elucidation of the ubiquitin system


Presse photos to download:

Ilse Helmut Wachterpreisträger_small

v. l.: Prof. Lukas Huber, Prof. Jean Laurent Casanova, Prof. Thomas Müller (Medizinische Universität Innsbruck/MUI)

Ilse Helmut Wachterpreisträger_small 

Prof. Jean Laurent Casanova (Medizinische Universität Innsbruck/MUI) 

Prof. Lukas Huber small 

Prof. Lukas Huber. (MUI/C. Lackner)

Prof. Thomas Müller_small 

 Prof. Thomas Müller. (MUI/C. Lackner)


Free to use - pleaese respect copyright! 



Media contact:
Innsbruck Medical University
PR Department
Dr Barbara Hoffmann
Innrain 52, 6020 Innsbruck, Austria
Telephone +43 512 9003 7183 0, mobile: +43 676 8716 7283 0,

About Innsbruck Medical University
Innsbruck Medical University has approximately 1,400* employees and around 3,000 students and, together with the University of Innsbruck, is the largest educational and research institution in western Austria and the regional university for Tyrol, Vorarlberg, South Tyrol and Liechtenstein. The following courses are offered at Innsbruck Medical University: Medicine and Dentistry as the basis of an academic medical degree and a PhD degree (PhD) as the postgraduate aspect of scientific work. The bachelor's degree in Molecular Medicine is new in the curriculum since autumn 2011. The part-time Clinical PhD can also be taken as a supplement to the study of human medicine or dentistry.
Innsbruck Medical University is involved in numerous international educational and research programmes and networks. The research focuses on the areas Oncology, Neuroscience, Genetics, Epigenetics and Genomics as well as Infectious Diseases, Immunology & Organ and Tissue Repair. In addition to scientific research, Innsbruck Medical University is also nationally and internationally very successful in the highly competitive field of research funding.
* full-time equivalent