It is with pride that FOSS, on 20 November, awarded the 2017 Nils Foss Excellence Prize to Frank M. Aarestrup, Professor, Head of Research Group, National Food Institute at Technical University of Denmark.
One of Frank M. Aarestrup’s most important contributions has been to map out and prove that the use of antibiotics for animals actually has consequences and that we can do something about it by reducing the amount of antibiotics. With a background as a veterinarian, Frank M. Aarestrup started his work in the laboratory, researching bacteria in mastitis, and his journey has then taken him to the area of antimicrobial resistance and the spread of infectious diseases on a global scale.
Currently working with building a global framework for surveillance of infectious diseases, Frank M. Aarestrup is making a true impact on global food safety and human health.
From petri dish to super computer
As a young man fresh out of high school, Frank wanted to become a chemical engineer. But, the life in Jutland’s countryside, and the feeling that he would want to return there to work, let him to become a veterinarian instead. This way, his work would allow him to stay close to home but still keep his options open. Little did he know that his work would lead him far away from his initial plan.
As a veterinarian, Frank discovered that his immediate interest was more in the way of analysis than the direct contact and treatment of animals. In particular, the area of immunology and the host’s resistance against infections sparked his interest. In the latter part of his study, Frank worked with the creation and analysis of data within the area of mastitis and cell count in cows. This work brought him into contact with a team working with mastitis and this became the subject for his final project in 1992, supervised by Henrik Wegener, who is now rector at Copenhagen University.
Enter: the Fossomatic
Next logical step for Frank was a PhD at the National Veterinary Serum Laboratory (now merged with DTU).
On his first day, he arrived on his bike, got off, and got to his first task: helping a team of people manoeuvre an old (and heavy!) Fossomatic into the building’s basement. At the time (in 1992), the machine was already around 20-30 years old but was fully functional and highly valued by the team working with it. The meeting with this old Fossomatic became the starting point of a study in bacterial genetics, especially with relation to clonal structure within the area of bacteria.
After a time, his studies brought Frank to the U.S. In Pennsylvania, he started studying staphylococci in connection with mastitis, and lo and behold, he ran into the Fossomatic once more. This time a large number of new machines working full-time to generate data for determining milk quality but also data for the research conducted there.