Dr. Lucia López Rodríguez is awarded the Maria Bednudelli Pezcoller Foundation prize

Latest Awards for Research Excellence

Announcing latest awards for research excellence – presented to postdocs Dr. Lucia López Rodríguez and Dr. Akhona Vava.

Dr. Lucia López Rodríguez (Uruguay) was awarded the Maria Begnudelli Award at the 35th Pezcoller Symposium held in Trento on 24-25 June, 2024.

Postdoc in the Benvenuti lab, Dr. López received athe award from the Pezcoller Foundation for outstanding research in lung cancer. The prize was awarded during the annual symposium where the latest breakthroughs in cancer research are presented for discussion by international scientists. The Symposium promotes networking between young researchers and senior experts in the field of cancer studies.

Dr. López presented her work on dendritic cells; a subset of immune cells, which enhance the response of T-cells against a specific type of lung cancer, whose growth is subsequently reduced. These results have just been published in the prestigious journal Nature Communications.

“I am very grateful to the Pezcoller Foundation for the invaluable opportunity to network with the best cancer scientists in an informal and stimulating setting”, comments Dr. López on her experience. Congratulations, Lucia!


In May, Dr. Akhona Vava was awarded a prestigious South African National Research Foundation Professional Development Programme Fellowship and joins ICGEB’s Cancer Genomics Group in Cape Town.

Dr. Vava’s research project entitled Elucidation of the mechanism of action DCUN1D1 and DCUN1D1 substrates in prostate cancer development and progression for therapeutic interventions, has already been partially published in Cells.

Globally, prostate cancer is the second most common cancer. Among African men, it is ranked 1st in both incidence and mortality. Growing knowledge of human genetics is changing how physicians and researchers approach the diagnosis and treatment of cancer. Genomic information about prostate cancer is leading to better diagnoses and treatment strategies.

Dr. Vava, originally from South Africa’s Eastern Cape province, focuses her research on understanding the biology behind cancer to find pertinent and innovative approaches to contribute to scholarly knowledge and technology development for cancer treatment in Africa. Akhona adds, “This is what makes performing my research at the ICGEB opportune because its ethos and culture is driven towards research excellence and sustainable scientific solutions to the most pressing societal matters“.

Dr. Vava continues to mentor many young South African students who wish to consider a career in STEM.