Jingjing Zhu receives the Baillet Latour Biomedical Award


Doctor Jingjing Zhu, researcher at the de Duve Institute (UCLouvain) received, from Her Majesty Queen Mathilde, the Baillet Latour Biomedical Award for her research on new strategies intended to improve the effectiveness of immunotherapy.

The Baillet Latour Biomedical Award has dedicated 1 million euros each year since 2022 to biomedical research in Belgium in order to support the careers of promising young researchers in the field of biomedical sciences for five years.

This year, Dr. Jingjing Zhu, researcher at the de Duve Institute, won this prize. It was presented to her by Her Majesty Queen Mathilde on April 29, 2024. The work of the winner* opens the way towards strengthening the effectiveness of cancer immunotherapy. T lymphocytes, a type of white blood cell, are the active components in this treatment thanks to their ability to recognize and destroy foreign cells. Immunotherapy increases immune defenses against cancer and provides interesting clinical results, but they remain limited to a subgroup of cancer patients.

The Baillet Latour Prize committee with Her Majesty Queen Mathilde (fourth from the left) and Dr Jingjing Zhu (third from the left).

Publication in Nature

Just a year ago, new research carried out at the de Duve Institute by Jingjing Zhu and her team in the laboratory of Professor Benoit Van den Eynde led to the publication of an article in Nature. The team of scientists discovered that drugs previously used to treat hypertension could have a very interesting effect in fighting forms of cancer that are resistant to immunotherapy.

These molecules act on macrophages, another type of white blood cell whose role is to engulf and digest debris from pathogens such as cancer cells, microbes and foreign substances. At the same time, these macrophages signal to T lymphocytes the abnormalities they encounter, in their role as sentinels triggering immune responses. The new approach could therefore 'boost' the clinical process of immunotherapy, particularly for the many cases of cancer for which the effectiveness of this treatment is still limited.

Young talents

Through this prize, the Baillet Latour Fund wishes to strengthen the status and visibility of promising young researchers in Belgium and contribute to the retention of promising new talents in Belgium, or even encourage the attraction of foreign talents to research institutes in Belgium.

*The title of Jingjing Zhu's project is "Exploring alpha2-adrenergic receptor agonists as a new therapeutic approach for cancer immunotherapy". Publication in Nature