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Molecular Biologist Wins European Prize for Women Innovators

By Elizabeth Fernandez

Watch Laura van 't Veer, PhD, receive her 2014 European Union Prize for Women Innovators on March 10 at a ceremony in Brussels, Belgium.

Laura van ‘t Veer, PhD, was honored this week as one of the top female scientific innovators in Europe. 

The European Union Prize for Women Innovators recognizes women who have combined their scientific excellence with a head for business to set up innovative enterprises. Van 't Veer was one of three who were presented the award on Monday in Brussels, Belgium.

Van ‘t Veer, of The Netherlands, was honored for developing MammaPrint, a diagnostic test that will help determine the likelihood that a breast tumor will metastasize to other parts of the body. This helps physicians determine whether or not each patient can benefit from chemotherapy.

Laura van 't Veer, PhD, receives her 2014 European Union Prize for Women Innovators Award from Mark Rutte, the prime minister of the Netherlands, who flew to Brussels, Belgium, for the occasion. Van 't Veer is one of three women who won the award.

Van ‘t Veer, a professor in the UCSF Department of Laboratory Medicine, leads the breast oncology program at the Helen Diller Family Comprehensive Cancer Center. Her current research focuses on precision medicine, specifically how the molecular basis for early response to therapy can guide the development of therapy-specific companion diagnostics.

"From my perspective, many people talk about translational science, but few actually take a finding that can impact care and actually change practice," said Laura Esserman, MD, MBA, director of the UCSF Carol Franc Buck Breast Care Center. "Laura's work is a shining example of the best of translational science."

Esserman says she recruited van 't Veer to UCSF a few years ago to help set up the I-SPY trial. Esserman developed molecular tests that have been approved by the FDA which allow UCSF and others to tailor treatment for women with breast cancer. Van 't Veer developed a platform to stratify high-risk tumors in the I-SPY trial, and now a new study to stratify low risk tumors.

Mark Rutte, the prime minister of the Netherlands, traveled to Brussels to present van 't Veer with the award at the opening ceremony of the Innovation Convention 2014. Van 't Veer won 50,000 euros for her second-place win.

Other honorees include first-place winner Saskia Biskup of Germany and third-place winner Ana Maiques of Spain. The three winners were selected by an independent panel of experts from a total of 67 applications.

Other political leaders who attended the ceremony include José Manuel Barroso, president of the European Commission, and Commissioner Máire Geoghegan-Quinn, EU commissioner of research, innovation and science.

Additional information about the winners can be found on the EU website.

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