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Emeritus professor Ron Wever of the University of Amsterdam's Van 't Hoff Institute for Molecular Sciences (HIMS) has been named the recipient of the 7th Vanadis Award for his research on vanadium haloperoxidases. Wever, former head of the Biocatalysis research group at HIMS, has spent a considerable part of his scientific career investigating these enzymes both in fundamental and application-oriented perspectives.

Prof. Ron Wever. Photo: Jan Willem Steenmeijer.

The Vanadis Award is presented to researchers in the area of vanadium science. It honors contributions to innovative research and the development of new applications of vanadium as well as the influence of the recipient on the application and exploration of vanadium in chemistry, biochemistry, biology, pharmaceutical science, and materials - or combinations thereof. 

Led by professor Ron Wever the HIMS Biocatalysis group has investigated vanadium bromo- and chloroperoxidases for almost thirty years. These enzymes are rather common in nature, for instance they help seaweeds in their defense against intruders. The enzymes hold potential for a broad field of applications ranging from laundry detergents to antibacterial and antifungal agents.

Publications, patents and mechanistic understanding

Vanadium haloperoxidase
The active center of a vanadium haloperoxidase enzyme. Image: HIMS.

In the beginning of the 1990's the group discovered a vanadium chloroperoxidase sufficiently stable for real application. This has led to many scientific publications as well as two patents, one of which describes the use of the enzyme as a bleaching and disinfecting component in household products such as laundry detergents. The other concerns the use in paints that prevent the attachment of algae and other organisms on ship's hulls and maritime constructions such as drilling rigs.

Next to the development of applications considerable research has been conducted on the factors determining the catalytic conversion rates of both the native and mutant enzymes. Under the guidance of professor Wever the group has obtained detailed understanding of the enzyme structure and the conversion mechanism.

Two recipients

Professor Debbie C. Crans of Colorado State University (USA), chair of the Vanadis selection committee, appreciates Wever's seminal work and is happy to acknowledge the importance of the vanadium haloperoxidase enzymes through his Vanadis award.

Wever shares the 7th Vanadis Award with professor Tamas Kiss, head of the Bioinorganic Chemistry Research group at the University of Szeged in Hungary and an expert in speciation chemistry. 'Both Wever and Kiss are pioneers in different areas of Vanadium Chemistry neither of which have been previously awarded. It is delightful that we now are able to do so for this 7th Vanadis award' says Crans. The recipients will be formally announced at the 10th International Vanadium Symposium in Taipei, Taiwan, Nov 6-9, 2016.

With the retirement of Ron Wever the vanadium haloperoxidase research at the Biocatalysis group has been discontinued. Former group member Rokus Renirie, now working at IVAM UvA BV, a research and consultancy firm in the field of sustainability, further pursues the antibacterial and antifungal application of the enzymes.

Read more on Ron Wever's haloperoxidase research