Damya Laoui’s triumph tour: innovating to inspire

29 September 2017

​Damya Laoui, postdoctoral researcher at the VIB Center for Inflammation Research (Myeloid Cell Immunology lab at VUB), is on a winning streak. She was recently nominated for two awards: the Dunia prize of the African Awards and the Innovators Under 35 Europe title from the prestigious Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Laoui’s research focuses on the use of dendritic cells, which are responsible for activating the immune system, to develop new cancer immunotherapies. She is studying how specific types of these cells taken from tumors can be used to vaccinate patients to slow tumor growth – and more specifically, why certain tumors respond better to dendritic cell treatment than others. Although the clinical application of this research is still a long way off, Laoui’s approach has great potential to help cancer patients all over the world who cannot benefit from currently available therapies.

Innovation with African roots
The African Awards honor people in Belgium of African origin who distinguish themselves in their fields. Its Dunia prize awards extraordinary initiatives, fueling a culture of entrepreneurship and innovation. Laoui: “It’s a great honor for me to be nominated for the Dunia award. Not only does it reward our work on tumor immunology, it also acknowledges my Algerian origins, of which I’m
very proud.”

MIT praises young scientists
But the Dunia award is not the only prize on Laoui’s horizon: she has also been selected as an Innovator Under 35 Europe by the prestigious MIT Technology Review. Each year, MIT recognizes the most remarkable rising stars among technological entrepreneurs and researchers. On top she was invited to defend her case in Paris.

Laoui: “I was very surprised to be selected. The timing is ideal: we’re currently looking for partners to translate our findings to the clinic. The nomination gives us a lot of visibility, and we’ve already been contacted by scientists, companies and funding agencies who want to collaborate on our project. In this way, our research project could lead to important innovations in the field of immunotherapy.”

Even more, Innovators Under 35 are role models for other up-and-coming talents. Our young scientist plays this role con brio: “I want to transcend our own research and use my recognition to inspire women all over the world to pursue scientific careers.”

Go back to the overview 'Stronger through diversity'

​Damya Laoui (VIB-VUB)