Unilever Science Prize
The prize was awarded in recognition of Professor Julius’s research into the molecular basis of somatosensation – in other words, the process whereby we experience touch and temperature.
Unilever Science Prize philosophy
The Unilever Science Prize demonstrates Unilever's commitment to scientific excellence that drives breakthrough innovations which help people to feel good, look good and get more out of life.
It is offered every three years to an outstanding scientist in the field of life sciences, physical sciences, social sciences, nutrition science or medicine, whose work contributes to Unilever’s mission to add vitality to life.
Professor Julius identified and characterised the receptor for capsaicin, the pungent ingredient in hot chilli peppers responsible for the sensation of burning, and the receptor for the cooling compound in menthol. These receptors are activated by hot or cold temperatures respectively, thereby revealing a unifying mechanism of how the peripheral nervous system detects temperature.
Breakthroughs in these fields are important for our own research into improving the multisensory appeal of our foods, home and beauty portfolio For example we can harness the sensations of heat or chill without actually having to use menthol or hot chilli peppers in our products.
Professor Julius’s research also has a major impact in elucidating neural pathways that contribute to acute and chronic pain, especially in the context of tissue injury and inflammation. This can in turn lead to novel targets for the design of analgesic drugs.
The award ceremony took place at Unilever’s Vitality Symposium in Vlaardingen, The Netherlands and was presented by Unilever Group Chief Executive, Patrick Cescau, in the presence of His Royal Highness, the Prince of Orange.