Go Vilnius and Vilnius University Life Sciences Center (VU LSC) have established a scholarship in the name of biochemist Professor Virginijus Šikšnys, which is awarded to students of the third (doctoral) cycle of studies for internationally recognized outstanding results of their scientific activities.

This scholarship is intended to encourage PhD students to continue their research by pushing the boundaries of knowledge of life processes, applying scientific knowledge to the creation of human well-being, and preserving the sustainability and diversity of the environment. The annual amount of the scholarship is EUR 10 000.

Applications are invited up to and including 15 December 2021. The scholarship will be administered by the VU. It is open to the most talented postgraduate life sciences students from all over the world, studying and carrying out research in Vilnius. More information on the conditions for the scholarship can be found here.

The CRISPR-Cas9 gene editing tool and technology is being developed in the laboratory of Prof. V. Šikšnys at the VU LSC independently of other world scientists. To mark his achievements, a scholarship named after Prof. V. Šikšnys was established in Vilnius last year, just before the Nobel Prize day. The City of Vilnius has committed to fund the scholarship for at least five years, with the possibility of extending the term. This initiative was complemented by the erection of a sculpture dedicated to gene scissors technology outside the VU Life Sciences Centre in May this year.

‘By establishing the V. Šikšnys' International Scholarship, we aim to strengthen the opportunities for young people to learn from a world-renowned scientist, and for the VU Life Sciences Center to attract and retain the most talented students,’ Remigijus Šimašius, Mayor of Vilnius said.

Prof. Šikšnys himself says that the scholarship will be a great incentive for young scientists to continue their research. Prof. Gintaras Valinčius, Director of the VU Life Sciences Centre, where Prof. V. Šikšnys works, is delighted with the creation of the scholarship - according to him, such initiatives directly contribute to the birth of world-class talent.

Prof. V. Šikšnys himself has been awarded prestigious prizes for his discovery of molecular gene scissors, including the Warren Alpert Prize from Harvard University and the famous Kavli Prize.

In addition, in 2017 he was awarded the Novozymes Prize by the Danish Novo Nordisk Foundation.

‘Gene Scissors’ is a targeted method of altering the DNA sequence, which encodes the molecular processes that determine the activity of living organisms, involving a complex of CRISPR-Cas9 protein and RNA molecules.

It is hoped that in the future this technology will allow cures not only for inherited blood or eye diseases, but also for muscular dystrophy and hereditary heart defects. This genome editing approach could lead to a cure for AIDS caused by the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) and is important for the development of innovative cancer treatments. In addition, the technology is already being used in agriculture to develop new plant varieties that are resistant to drought or other adverse climatic conditions.

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