Professor Jacek Gaertig, from the University of Georgia in Athens, USA, has been awarded the Nencki Prize 2018. This award was established by the Scientific Council of the Institute, to honor outstanding scientists who work with scientists from the Nencki Institute.
On 31st May 2019, in the Lecture Hall of the Neurobiology Center of the Nencki Institute, a ceremony was held, during which the President of the Competition Chapter, Prof. Bożena Kamińska-Kaczmarek, and the Director of the Institute, Prof. Agnieszka Dobrzyń, presented the Nencki Prize to Prof. Jacek Gaertig. The winner gave a lecture entitled: "Size control and pattern formation in a single-cell model Tetrahymena".
Professor Gaertig graduated from the Faculty of Biology at the University of Warsaw in 1983, and in 1989, he defended his doctorate on cilia biology under the supervision of Professor Andrzej Kaczanowski. In the meantime, he completed numerous scientific internships in laboratories at the University of Paris-Sud, Orsay, the University of Tübingen and Giessen. He continued his scientific interests at the University of Rochester (USA), where he completed a postdoctoral internship. Since 1995, he has been associated with the University of Georgia in Athens (USA), where within the Department of Cell Biology, he progressed through the next stages of his scientific career, and became a world-class authority in the field of molecular biology of ciliates. Prof. Gaerting prides the development of the Tetrahymena thermopila transformation method to be his key achievement. The method has enabled wide-scale biochemical and molecular studies of the signaling pathways and function of selected proteins important for the mobility and differentiation of the model single-cell organism. An important discovery published in Nature in 2010, was that the MEC-17 protein is an alpha-tubulin acetylatransferase, and the depletion of this protein disrupted neuron touch neuron receptors in nematodes, causing neuromuscular defects in the fish Danio rerio. During his fruitful carrier, Prof. Gaertig has published numerous papers in leading scientific journals, owns 3 patents, and carried out numerous grants from the National Science Foundation, along with prestigious NIHRO1 and NIHR21 grants.
Professor Gaertig's close relationship with the Nencki Institute began in the late 1980s, born from a cooperation with Professor Maria Jerka-Dziadosz, whose doctoral student, Izabela Strzyżewska-Jówko, spent several months in Professor Gaertig’s laboratory in Athens, learning Tetrahymena's transformation methods, which she transferred to the Institute continuing her cooperation. Other researchers from the group of Professor Stanisław Fabczak, and in recent years from Professor Dorota Włoga's group, who completed a postdoctoral internship in Professor Gaertig's laboratory, consolidated this cooperation and contributed to further internships and joint research. The Laureate emphasized in his speech, that each visit to the Nencki Institute is inspiring, and the cooperation with the next generations of biologists dealing with Tetrahymena in the Nencki Institute is very exciting.