Donia wins Vilcek Prize in biomedical science

Written by
Liz Fuller-Wright, Office of Communications
Sept. 9, 2020

The Vilcek Foundation announced today that Mohamed Abou Donia was one of three recipients of the 2021 Vilcek Prizes for Creative Promise in Biomedical Science, awarded annually to extraordinary early-career scientists whose work represents a profound advance in their respective fields. Like the other Vilcek Prizes, it is awarded to scholars who work in the United States but were born elsewhere.

“The United States has long been a beacon for scientists from around the globe, and many groundbreaking discoveries made in research laboratories in this country have been spawned by immigrant scientists,” said Jan Vilcek, the CEO and chairman of the Vilcek Foundation. “The outstanding diversity of thought and innovation that immigrant scientists bring to the United States cannot be overstated, especially at the present time when immigration is under assault and visas for foreign scientists who would like to work and study here are being denied.”

Donia, an associate professor of molecular biology, has identified drug-like molecules, including antibiotics, produced by the human microbiome. Donia also developed screening methods to reveal with individual-level precision how drugs are metabolized by the human gut microbiome and he mapped microbiome-encoded genes involved in drug metabolism. Additionally, Donia’s work has led to a molecular understanding of the role of chemical defense in the evolution of intricate symbiosis between organisms. He was born in Ismailia, Egypt.

Donia and the other prize recipients, Ibrahim Cissé of MIT and Silvi Rouskin of the Whitehead Institute, will receive a $50,000 cash prize and a commemorative plaque celebrated at an awards ceremony hosted by the Vilcek Foundation in April 2021.


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