The Gilbert S. Omenn Prize is awarded by the International Society for Evolution, Medicine, and Public Health for the best article published each year on a topic related to evolution in the context of medicine and public health.  The prize for 2015 goes to, “Adaptive immunity increases the pace and predictability of evolutionary chance in commensal gut bacteria” by Joao Barroso-Batista, Jocelyne Demengeot and Isabel Gordo from the Instituto Gulbenkian de Ciencia, Portugal.

The article appeared in Nature Communications 6: 8945, 2015 and is open access. First author Joao Barroso-Batista, a graduate student, will receive the $5,000 prize and present a talk at the 2016 ISEMPH meeting in North Carolina. The prize is made possible by a generous donation from Gilbert Omenn. The Prize Committee—Andrew Read, David Haig, Grazyna Jasienska —found the paper an impressive experimental demonstration of the processes driving bacterial evolution within individual hosts. Joao Barroso-Batista et al. show that immune deficiency slows the rate of bacterial adaptation and makes it less predictable. Evidently, beneficial alleles confer stronger evolutionary advantages in animals with intact immunity. These greater advantages likely accrue because the community of microbes that develops in a host with healthy immunity generates a more metabolically competitive environment. This work is a striking illustration of the evolution driven by interactions between hosts and their microbiota. Commensal bacteria impact host metabolism, susceptibility to pathogens and the response to antibiotics. The work of Barroso-Batista et al. elegantly demonstrates how immunity shapes the evolution of our essential bacterial partners, a key component of the co-evolutionary processes that cause health and disease.

Please join the Society in congratulating the authors. Nominations for next year’s prize will be received starting early in 2017.  The Society also sponsors the $5,000 George C. Williams Prize for the best paper published each year in the Society’s flagship journal, Evolution, Medicine and Public Health. The winners of that award will be announced soon.