Prestigious HAZU Award for Prof. Wensveen

Professor Felix M. Wensveen is the recipient of the prestigious award awarded by the Croatian Academy of Science and Arts (HAZU) for the highest scientific and artistic achievements in the Republic of Croatia for the year 2019. Prof. Wensveen received the award for the discovery of key immune-endocrine interactions and for the establishment of a research line in Rijeka which is currently world-leading in this field.

Dr. Felix M. Wensveen (1982, Woerden, The Netherlands) is an Associate Professor at the Department of Histology and Embryology at the UNIRI Faculty of Medicine. Dr. Wensveen was trained as a viral immunologist in Amsterdam, The Netherlands. In Amsterdam, he focused on the molecular mechanisms involved in the formation of long-term immunity after infection and vaccination. After defending his Ph.D. Thesis in 2010, he joined the team of Prof. Bojan Polić in Rijeka. For decades, Rijeka has been the center of research into anti-viral immunology in Croatia under the lead of Prof. Stipan Jonjić. Dr. Wensveen therefore successfully continued his research on the formation of immunity in Rijeka. He started his research group in 2015, which is still working on this topic, exemplified by a recent high impact publication in PLoS Biology (Kavazović et al. 2020, the impact factor (IF) 8,4).

In addition to his work on long-term immunity, together with Prof. Polić, Dr. Wensveen expanded his research into the newly emerging field of immuno-endocrinology. We all know that when we get sick, the body undergoes many physiological changes, such as general weakness, reduced appetite, and development of temperature. Whereas we experience this as something bad, this is a well-orchestrated mechanism to optimally fight the infection. What Dr. Wensveen discovered is that this mechanism, which is supposed to function only during viral infection, is also activated in obesity by overloaded, stressed fat cells. He also found that this process is an important underlying cause of the formation of Diabetes mellitus type 2. These findings were published in the high impact journal Nature Immunology (IF 19.4). Importantly, this work was followed up by several high-impact publications in which Dr. Wensveen played a pivotal role (e.g. Eur J Immunol. 2015 & 2019, IF 4.7, Seminars in Immunol. 2015, IF 8.5, Immunity 2018, IF 21.5). For this research, several key collaborations with clinical departments of KBC Rijeka were established, most notably with Davor Mendrila, M.D., from the Dept. of Thoracic Surgery, Assis. Prof. Đurđica Cekinović Grbeša, from the Dept. of Infectious Diseases, and Assis. Prof. Tamara Turk Wensveen, from the Dept. of Endocrinology, Diabetes, and Metabolic Disorders. This research line is, therefore, a prime example of successful translational medicine in Croatia.

To date, Dr. Wensveen has published 38 articles, of which 16 as first author and 6 as senior author. He has been cited 1278 times and has an H-index of 19 (www.scopus.com). Since 2019, he is the president of the Croatian Immunological Society.