Martin J. Blaser recognized for career-long focus on the microbiome’s effect on human health
Martin J. Blaser has been awarded the 2020 Prize Medal by the Microbiology Society of Great Britain in recognition of his study of the microbiome and its interactions within the human body that provide protection against and lead to disease.
Blaser, the Henry Rutgers Chair of the Human Microbiome and professor of medicine and microbiology at the Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School and director of the Center for Advanced Biotechnology and Medicine (CABM) at Rutgers Biomedical and Health Sciences, joins a storied list of scientists, including Nobel Prize recipients, who also have been recognized with the Prize Medal due to the impact their work has had on medicine and the care of patients worldwide.
Blaser, an infectious disease physician, has been one of the medical school’s leading researchers on SARS-CoV-2 and the virus’s impact on patients and frontline workers. His experience and forethought helped garner some of the university’s earliest funding to support the Rutgers Corona Cohort study, which at the time of launch, was the nation’s largest COVID-related study of health care workers.
Also a microbiologist, Blaser has spent his career studying the human microbiome. His groundbreaking research focuses on understanding the relationships that humans have with their pathogenic and colonizing bacteria. He also studies the relationship of the human microbiome with health and with major diseases, such as asthma, obesity, diabetes, allergies, inflammatory bowel disease and cancer and has extended his investigations, looking to determine if there is a connection to COVID-19 and whether the microbiome plays a role in susceptibility or severity of the virus.
As director of CABM, Blaser leads the university’s focus on biotechnology research, overseeing 17 principal investigators and their laboratories, which concentrate on basic biomedical research in three primary areas: infectious disease, cancer and neurodevelopment/neurodegeneration. He serves as a mentor to undergraduate and medical students, postdoctoral fellows and junior faculty members. He serves as chair of the Presidential Advisory Council for Combating Antibiotic Resistant Bacteria, holds 24 U.S. patents, and has authored more than 600 original articles. He wrote Missing Microbes, a book targeted to general audiences, now translated into 20 languages. He was also honored for his work in 2019 with the Robert Koch Gold Medal.
The Prize Medal is awarded annually to an outstanding microbiologist who is a global leader in his or her field and whose work has had a far-reaching impact beyond the discipline of microbiology. The honor was awarded to Blaser during the society’s annual meeting, held virtually on April 29, at which he presented his work during an honorary lecture.