12 November 2010 - Berlin, Germany - Dr Armand Van Deun is the recipient of this year's Kochon prize, which is awarded annually to persons, institutions or organizations that have made a highly significant contribution to combating tuberculosis (TB), a disease that still causes more than nine million illnesses and some 1.7 million deaths per year. The selections were announced at the opening ceremony of the World Conference of the International Union Against Tuberculosis and Lung Disease (the Union) in Berlin today.
Dr Van Deun is an international leader on improving laboratory testing for TB. His efforts have had an impact on the quality of work performed by laboratory technologists around the world, resulting in untold thousands of lived saved through diagnosis of TB followed by effective treatment. He pioneered research demonstrating that systematic, random blind checks were critical for ensuring the quality of microscopy results and then travelled the world, educating an entire generation of laboratory leaders, who in turn built the capacity of laboratories in their countries to provide reliable microscopic diagnosis of TB.
A native of Belgium, Dr Van Deun earned his medical degree at the Katholieke Universiteit Leuven in 1978 and later completed specialty training in laboratory medicine at the same institution. Early in his career he spent more than ten years managing TB and leprosy programmes in Tanzania and Rwanda. From 1994 to 1998 he served as Medical Director for the Damien Foundation TB/leprosy control project in Bangladesh, where he initiated a number of research projects, one of which resulted in adoption of revised global guidelines for external quality assessment of acid-fast bacillus smear microscopy.
Since 1999 he has been a researcher at the Institute of Tropical Medicine in Antwerp. During this time he has managed the organization and analysis of the annual rounds of proficiency testing of Mycobacterium tuberculosis drug susceptibility tests for the network of Supra-National TB Reference Laboratories worldwide, in the context of the Global TB Drug Resistance Surveillance project of the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Union. Since 2001 he also has consulted on behalf of the Union. In 2008 he was awarded a doctoral degree from the Katholieke Universiteit Leuven.
Dr Van Deun will receive the Kochon Medal and an award of US$ 65 000. There were two award recipients for last year's prize: Ms Lucy Chesire, a leading international advocate on behalf of people affected by TB and TB/HIV; and Professor Stewart Cole, an authority on bacterial molecular-genetics who has been responsible for groundbreaking research on M. tuberculosis.