Professor Pentti Huovinen received the A. I. Virtanen Prize

Named after the only Finnish Nobel laureate in science, the A .I. Virtanen Prize has been awarded to Professor Pentti Huovinen in recognition of his internationally significant research in the field of bacteriology.

Published 17.1.2022

Pentti Huovinen, Professor of Bacteriology at the University of Turku and Vice Chairman of the Board of the Sakari Alhopuro Foundation, has received the valued A. I. Virtanen Prize in recognition of his high-standard and broad scientific work. The prize is awarded every second year and presented to the winner on the 10th of December, the same date when Professor Artturi Ilmari Virtanen received his Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1945.

Professor Huovinen is a Doctor of Medical Science and Specialist in Clinical Microbiology. In addition to the University of Turku, he has pursued scientific research at the National Public Health Institute of Finland (KTL), the National Institute of Health and Welfare (THL), as well as at Harvard Medical School in Boston, MA, USA. His publications include over 400 scientific articles, which have been cited more than 12,000 times. In addition, he has supervised more than 20 dissertations and served numerous times as an opponent for doctoral candidates. He has authored several textbooks and non-fiction books, and earned a reputation as a talented populariser of science.

In his scientific work, Professor Huovinen has focused on the use of antibiotics for the treatment of infections and the antibiotic resistance of bacteria. In recent years, he has become widely known for his ground-breaking research on the impacts of gut bacteria on health.

The A. I. Virtanen Prize is awarded by the Finnish Chemical Society, the Biobio Society and the Foundation for Nutrition Research to acknowledge, among other things, high-quality international scientific research and an innovative approach to research. The significance of Professor Huovinen’s publications has previously been recognised in the form of, for example, the Award of Excellence granted by the European Society of Clinical Microbiology and Infectious Diseases (ESCMID); so far, Huovinen is the only Finnish scientist to receive this award.

If the quality and appreciation of science fade in society, our well-being will lose its foundation.

Sharing an interest in bacteria and politics

Huovinen is grateful for the A. I. Virtanen Prize he received in December 2021.

“The A .I. Virtanen Prize is one of the most valued science awards in Finland and I am honoured to be among its recipients”, Huovinen says.

Certain analogies can be found in the scientific careers of these two researchers. A. I. Virtanen’s main field of education was Chemistry, but he also minored in Microbiology, conducted research in the field of nutrition and advanced public health through his research.

“Virtanen was a bacteriologist as well, and there is even a bacterium named after him – Acidipropionibacterium virtanenii. In addition, he, too, was a politician who engaged actively in social discourse.”

 Huovinen was delighted when his own political career and social influence were positively presented at the award ceremony in December.

“Being influential in society is often viewed negatively within the scientific world, but that’s not how it should be. Researchers should more actively contribute to social discourse and speak of scientific results in a comprehensible manner to a public beyond their own community. Given its social significance, science is all too little in the spotlight of the media.”

“If the quality and appreciation of science fade in society, our well-being will lose its foundation. Maybe this prize will help encourage scientists to be increasingly involved in social activities and discourse”, Huovinen concludes.

The A. I. Virtanen Prize awarded to Professor Pentti Huovinen is comprised of a grant of 10,000 euro, a silver medal and a diploma.




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