The Winners of the Louis-Jeantet Prize for Medicine

Prize Winner 2012


Professor Fiona POWRIE

Winner of the 2012 Louis-Jeantet Prize for medicine

The information below refers to the time of the award.

A British citizen, Fiona POWRIE was born in 1963 in Luton (United Kingdom). She studied biochemistry at the University of Bath before undertaking a PhD in immunology in Don Mason’s Laboratory in Oxford. Following postdoctoral studies in the United States with Dr. Robert Coffman, she returned to Oxford in 1996 to establish her own laboratory as a Wellcome Trust Senior Research Fellow. In 2009, she was appointed as the inaugural Sidney Truelove Professor of Gastroenterology at the University of Oxford. She is also Head of the Experimental Medicine Division of the Nuffield Department of Medicine at the John Radcliffe Hospital, University of Oxford.
Fiona POWRIE is a Fellow of the Royal Society since 2011. She has already received numerous distinctions, notably in 2009 the Ita Askonas Prize, from the European Federation of Immunological Societies (EFIS) and the European Journal of Immunology (EJI), which is awarded to leading female immunologists.

The immune system and the intestinal flora

In the view of Fiona POWRIE, the digestive tract is really the “Wild West” for the immune system, which has to combat microbial pathogens while at the same time protecting the beneficial bacteria living in our intestines. A delicate balance exists between the system of defence and the intestinal flora which, if upset, results in intestinal inflammatory diseases. 
Fiona POWRIE identified certain regulatory T cells (Treg) that police the immune response in the intestine, thus preventing our defence system from attacking bacteria that are of benefit to us. Furthermore she demonstrated that Treg cell deficiencies can lead to chronic intestinal inflammatory disease. She also showed that in the intestine a delicate equilibrium exists between two types of T cells, one of which causes inflammation while the other can counter the process. Her work is opening up new perspectives for the treatment of chronic intestinal inflammatory diseases.