Meet the winners of the Odile Bain Memorial Prize 2020

The Odile Bain Memorial Prize recognizes early career scientists who have made significant contributions to the medical and veterinary parasitology fields, in memory of an exceptional and inspiring female scientist.

Since 2014, the Prize honours the late Odile Bain’s commitment to medical and veterinary parasitology and the spirit of collaboration she fostered among biologists, veterinarians, physicians, and fundamental and applied parasitologists around the world.

Odile’s primary expertise was the systematics of filariae, vectors and transmission of filariae, models of filariasis, and the Litomosoides sigmodontis murine model. As Dr. Coralie Martin said, the ‘achievements are all owed to Odile’s ability to integrate classical zoology with high technology’, and today, they keep driving her colleagues ‘along the road to elimination of filarial infections as public health problems, while maintaining a fascination and curiosity for a unique group of animals’.

This year, the winners are Adnan Hodžić, Institute of Parasitology of the Vetmed Uni Vienna, Austria, Angela M. Ionică, University of Agricultural Sciences and Veterinary Medicine of Cluj-Napoca, Romania, and Alicia Rojas, Koret School of Veterinary Medicine, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Israel. Dr. Ionică and Dr. Rojas equally shared the 2020 Prize.

Odile Bain was a great supporter of early career parasitologists, and the Prize is designed to reflect this support. The Prize is awarded in association with Boehringer Ingelheim Animal Health and Parasites & Vectors.

Some of Dr. Rojas’ achievements have been the description of Spirocerca vulpis, associated with red foxes, the characterization of the parasite’s secretome and the development of very sensitive molecular diagnostic techniques to detect this helminth in dog faeces.

“Odile Bain remains as an inspiration to many women parasitologists, myself included”, Dr. Rojas told us. “She encourages me not only as the talented and curious researcher she was, but also as a woman who followed her career aspirations and excelled in them. Receiving this prize is a great honor and a very exciting way to start my own path in my home country, Costa Rica. In the University of Costa Rica, I was granted a Principal Investigator position, where I intend to research the phylogenetics and host-pathogen communications in parasites of veterinary and clinical importance.”

Dr. Rojas completed her PhD at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Her studies on the biology of the dog parasite Spirocerca lupi have been of great importance to the discipline.

Of relevance has been the description of a novel related species, Spirocerca vulpis, associated with red foxes, the characterization of the parasite’s secretome and the development of very sensitive molecular diagnostic techniques to detect this helminth in dog faeces. Her extensive achievements during her PhD have led to a postdoctoral research position to study malaria at the Weizmann Institute of Science of Israel.

Dr. Ionică gained her PhD at the University of Agricultural Sciences and Veterinary Medicine of Cluj-Napoca where she is currently researcher. She performed the first large scale surveys on canine filariases in Romania, including the first report of Cercopithifilaria spp. in Eastern Europe.

She contributed extensively also to several other studies on helminths of domestic and wild carnivores in Romania, particularly the first documentation of Angiostrongylus vasorum, A. chabaudi, A. daskalovi, and Troglostrongylus brevior in the country. She also worked extensively on the epidemiology of canine vector-borne diseases in Mauritius, Kenya and Ivory Coast.

Dr. Ionică performed the first large scale surveys on canine filariases in Romania, including the first report of Cercopithifilaria spp. in Eastern Europe.

“For me, this prize is a great honour and my greatest achievement so far”, said Dr. Ionică. It represents the highest rank validation of the relevance of my projects. I was always passionate about helminthology, and, when I started my Ph.D. studies, I developed a strong admiration for Odile Bain and her work, and I thought to myself ‘she is the woman I would like to become’. I know it’s a long sea to cross, but I like to see this as one of the first steps in that direction. Although it’s impossible to predict what the future will bring, I hope to always remain connected to parasitic and vector-borne diseases, and further contribute to a deeper understanding of their ecology.

“It is a great honor and pleasure to receive the OBMP 2020”, said Dr. Hodžić, “and to be placed among the past honourees, all of whom made an outstanding contribution to the field of parasitology. Receiving such an important and prestigious international prize is a great motivation and incentive for my future research and it helps me to grapple with new scientific challenges with more confidence”.

Dr. Hodžić’s significant contributions include research on the “oriental eyeworm” Thelazia callipeda in the Balkan area, zoonotic leishmaniosis and other vector-borne parasites in wild animals as well as ticks from Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Dr Adnan Hodžić received his veterinary degree (DVM) from the University of Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina in 2006, and an MSc in Veterinary Parasitology from the same University in 2010. From 2006 to 2014, he worked as a teaching and research assistant at the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine in Sarajevo. In 2014, he joined the Institute of Parasitology of the University of Veterinary Medicine in Vienna, Austria, where he completed his PhD studies (2018) and the EVPC residency program (2019). His research mainly focuses on ticks and tick-borne diseases, and tick-host-pathogen interactions.

Dr Hodžić and colleagues are now exploring the immune response to the oligosaccharide galactose-α-1,3-galactose (α-Gal) and its effect in protection against multiple infectious agents.

The nominations for the 2021 Odile Bain Memorial Prize are now open. Please visit the Prize website for the criteria and instructions on how to submit nominations.

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