Bassler receives Princess of Asturias Award from the Spanish Crown

Written by
Liz Fuller-Wright, Office of Communications, Princeton University
June 8, 2023

Bonnie Bassler, the Squibb Professor in Molecular Biology, has been awarded the 2023 Princess of Asturias Award for Technical and Scientific Research. The Princess of Asturias Awards are the highest form of recognition bestowed by the Spanish Crown and among the most important prizes conferred in the European Union.

Bassler shares the Asturias science prize with Jeffrey Gordon of Washington University in St. Louis, a leader in studying the microbiome, and Everett Peter Greenberg of the University of Washington. The award will be presented in October by Princess Leonor and King Felipe VI of Spain.

Bassler and Greenberg are pioneers in the study of bacterial communication through the emission of certain chemicals and how the formation of large groups generates behavior which differs from that produced when they are isolated. This is called “quorum sensing,” a term coined by Greenberg and colleagues in 1994. Bassler showed that each bacterial species has its own molecule — its own language — that it secretes and that only those of its own species recognize, so they know when there are a quorum of kin around them. Bassler has also discovered that bacteria can emit and receive other substances to communicate between different species and that there is a universal language that she calls “a bacterial Esperanto.”

Bassler has authored more than 330 scientific publications that have been cited almost 60,000 times, according to Google Scholar.

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