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The award ceremony of the European Vision Awardee 2011:
Prof. Carlos Belmonte

Prof. Carlos Belmonte - the European Vision Awardee 2011 with Prof. Eberhart Zrenner, Chaiman of the European Vision Institute EEIG

Laudatio of Prof. Eberhart Zrenner
Chairman of the European Vision Institute EEIG, Belgium - October 6th, 2011 - Crete, Greece

Dear Colleagues,

It is a great honour and pleasure to introduce this years Awardee of the European Vision Award: Prof. Carlos Belmonte.

Before doing so, please allow me to make some comments on the European Vision Award:

It is an award of the European Vision Institute which was founded 10 years ago with the aims to

  • Reduce fragmentation of the European Vision Research area
  • Help with organisational resources and funding
  • Promote interaction between national institutions
  • Provide proper training of future leaders in Vision Research
  • Help developing a platform for standardised, international clinical trials

It has worked out very nicely: The Institute has been instrumental to get remarkable amounts of European Funding, to disseminate Information and to develop a cooperative basis for international Clinical Studies

It is presently most active in disseminating Information about developments in Vision Research and Ophthalmology, including presentation of young investigators, visionary of the month and institutions. The Internet platform has become the most active gateway to European Ophthalmic Research with thousands of clicks per week, especially from colleagues in United States.

The prestigious European Vision Award has been established in 2007 and is given annually at the EVER meeting in conjunction with an award lecture.

Let me now introduce this years awardee:

Professor Belmonte was born in Spain and has pursued an outstanding career as a neuroscientist for 40 years. It began in Stockholm in 1961 and excellent fellow scientists, for instance Lord Adrian, set the promising young student on the right track to research.

Subsequently he obtained his M.D. degree and his Ph.D. in Physiology, with honors at the University of Madrid and later appointed Assistant Professor and Associate Professor of Physiology at this Medical School. In 1971, he was awarded an International Fellowship by the Fogarty International Center of NIH to work for 2 years in the University of Utah on electrophysiology of sensory receptors with Carlos Eyzaguirre and later with the Nobel Laureate Keffer H. Hartline. A key factor, he told us, was the choice of his research mentor in early days, Professor Antonio Gallego, because he provided a modern view of research and life in a very difficult period of the history of Spain, here with Antonio Gallegos Son Roberto who was one of his first PhD students.

At age 29 Carlos Belmonte was appointed Full Professor and Chairman of Physiology in the Medical School of Valladolid. From 1985 on he served as Vice-president of the University of Alicante and Dean of the Medical School (1980-1985). He founded in 1990 and directed until 2007 the Instituto de The Instituto de Neurociencias became a joint Center of the University and the Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Cientificas, here at the inauguration in 2005. It is the largest academic institution in Spain devoted to brain research. He is presently Director of the Sensory Transduction and Nociception Research Unit and Full Professor of Human Physiology in the Medical School, University Miguel Hernandez, Alicante, Spain.

Dr. Belmonte has been a Visiting Professor at the Universities of Harvard and Utah (USA), Retina Foundation, Boston (USA) and at the Prince of Wales Medical Research Institute, Sydney Australia.

But most of all, it is his untiring great scientific work that not only has earned him deep respect and admiration from the scientific community.

Carlos Belmonte has made seminal contributions to the functional characterization of the eye's non-visual sensory innervation. Using cellular, electrophysiological and behavioural techniques, he unveiled the functional characteristics of ocular sensory nerves and their role in ocular sensations as well as in the neural regulation of various ocular functions (tearing, blinking, regulation of ocular blood flow and intraocular pressure), as well as on corneal trophism and on wound healing with consequences for a number of pathological situations such as dry eye, pain associated with contact lens wearing, herpes, diabetes and postsurgical pain.

In addition to his important contributions to general sensory neurobiology, let me just mention a few outstanding discoveries in eye research:

  1. The demonstration of a trophic dependence between corneal epithelium cells and trigeminal sensory neurons, as well as the role of Substance P in this process (IOVS, 1990; Exp. Eye Res. 1994).
  2. The first functional characterization of the different types of sensory fibers and neurons innervating ocular tissues (J. Physiol.1981, 1993; Neuroscience, 2000)
  3. Demonstrating that TRPM8 is the transducing channel for cold receptor fibers of the cornea and showing that it contributes to maintaining basal tear production (Nature Medicine, 2010)

The work of Prof. Belmonte has received wide international recognition and his pioneering studies on ocular sensory innervation became established doctrine and are now part of textbooks.

Prof. Belmonte has been entrusted with important positions in the scientific community and I just can mention a few:

Dr. Belmonte is the President of the International Brain Research Organization (IBRO) where he was also Secretary-General. He has been President of the Spanish Society of Neurocience, Secretary and President of the International Society for Eye Research and President of the Spanish Society of Medical Education. He is a member of the Academia Europaea.

He has received numerous awards, just to name a few:

In 1992 he was awarded the National Prize 'Rey Jaime I' for research in Neurosciences, in 1996 the National Prize Severo Ochoa Chair, both presented by the Kings of Spain and in 1997 the Alcon Research Excellence Award. He obtained the Endre A. Balazs Prize for Excellence in Eye Research in 1998 and in 2008 the National Prize in Biomedical Research "Gregorio Marañón", presented by the King of Spain.

Despite all these enormous activities he is a great family man and his wonderful wife Anny is a real companion and supporter for 40 years. He clearly is a happy man, always friendly and open for discussions; he has two nice sons in two lovely daughters in law and lovely grandchildren who already are set on scientist pathways by playing with grandfather's medals.

And there is also his other family in the lab; many young and gifted scientists to whom he provides his thoughts and care, helping them to achieve outstanding results and to develop a career in science. He helps to provide them a sound education in Neurosciences in summer seminars.

It is my pleasure, in behalf of the Board of EVER and in behalf of the steering committee of the European Vision Institute and in the name of all present here to congratulate Professor Belmonte and to ask him to present today's award lecture :

'From comfort to pain: neural basis of ocular surface sensations'

Contact details

Prof. Carlos Belmonte

Universidad Miguel Hernández-Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas

Instituto de Neurociencias de Alicante

Campus de San Juan

Avda Ramon y Cajal s/n
03550 Sant Joan d'Alacant, Alicante



European Vision Institute EVI (EEIG)

Main Office
Rue du Trône 98
B-1050 Bruxelles

Tel: +32-2-5480225
Fax: +32-2-5027533

E-mail: info[at]

The European Vision Institute

The European Vision Institute European Economic Interest Grouping (EVI EEIG’) was legally constituted under European law in the late year 2003. The major objectives of EVI are to encourage cross-border cooperation in Vision Research with special emphasis on supporting research, training, health information, dissemination and other programs in the areas of blinding eye diseases, visual disorders, mechanisms of visual function, preservation of sight as well as the special health problems and requirements of the blind and visually disabled.

The members of EVI are vision scientists, research institutes / institutions, universities, private companies and patient organisations. At present, the chairman is Prof. E. Zrenner, Germany, who is supported by the Steering Committee, consisting of Profs. J. Cunha-Vaz, Portugal, P. Luthert, UK, J. Sahel, France, A. Wenzel, Switzerland and N. Pfeiffer, Germany. The Board of Trustees is formed by the Profs. C. Reme, Switzerland, T. van Veen, Sweden and E. Luetjen-Drecoll from Germany.

EVI was not formed for the purpose of making profits for itself. Its function is to carry out activities ancillary to those of its members, including but not restricted to research, technological development, organisation, management, fundraising and publicity pertinent to the defined aims to safeguard the procedures for high-quality Vision Research throughout Europe and worldwide.

The Former Awardees of the Euopean Vision Award:

2007Prof. Frans Cremers
Radboud University Nijmegen, The Netherlands
2008Dr. Hendrik Scholl
University Eye Hospital in Bonn, Germany
2009Dr. Valeria Marigo
University of Modena and Reggio Emilia, Italy
2010Dr. Ronald Roepman
Radboud University Nijmegen Medical Centre, Nijmegen, The Netherlands

More Information

For more information about the European Vision Award, please visit the website of the European Vision Institute EEIG