The University of Cape Town’s (UCT) Professor Petrus de Vries from the Department of Psychiatry and Mental Health has been awarded the prestigious international Bourneville Prize for his ongoing research into tuberous sclerosis complex (TSC).
TSC is a genetic disorder characterised by the growth of noncancerous tumors in many parts of the body. Typically, the tumors occur in the brain, kidneys, heart, skin and other organs. The disorder affects up to two million people in the world and in some cases can lead to significant health challenges like cognitive impairments and learning disabilities.
The award was named in hour of Désiré-Magloire Bourneville, a 19th century French neurologist who identified the first TSC case at the Pitié-Salpêtrière University Hospital in Paris. It is conferred every five years and includes a certificate, bronze medal and cash prize. The latter is to be used towards further advancing TSC research. The 2021 award contains the following inscription: “For his unique gift to explain the complex problems of TSC in an inspiring way to parents and patients as well as to scientists. For his involvement in, drawing attention to and contribution to research into neuropsychiatric problems in TSC.”
A team effort
Professor De Vries accepted his award during the 6th Dutch Stichting Tubereuze Sclerosis Nederland (STSN) Lustrum, held in the in the Netherlands towards the end of 2021. The STSN is a non-profit organisation dedicated to providing research, support and advocacy for people living with TSC globally.
“An award is not really to an individual, but actually an acknowledgement of the work of many people over a long period of time.”
De Vries has been conducting research into TSC-associated neuropsychiatric disorders (TAND) for the past 25 years, he led an international team of scientists who came up with the term “TAND”, and also created the TAND checklist.
He said receiving the 2021 Bourneville Prize was a “complete but wonderful surprise”.
“For those who know me, I’m not often left completely speechless. Needless to say, an award is not really to an individual, but actually an acknowledgement of the work of many people over a long period of time. Thank you to everyone who contributed to our TAND research and who inspired me over the years,” De Vries said.
Currently, De Vries serves as the principal investigator of an international technology project called TANDem that aims to develop and validate a quantified, self-report TAND checklist, which will be built as a mobile app. The app will be designed to provide evidence-based information and tips to families and people living with TSC. The project is funded by the Belgium Royal Foundation.
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