Piet Borst is a physician-biochemist and molecular biologist. He discovered the peculiar properties of the DNA in mitochondria – the powerhouses of the cell –, and a metabolic cycle involving mitochondria, the malate-aspartate shuttle.
Piet’s early work with George Cross FRS on African trypanosomes, revealed how these parasites are able to escape from the host immune response by altering their surface molecules. He also discovered a new type of organelle, the glycosome, used by the trypanosomes to rapidly degrade sugar, and a new building block in their DNA, base J.
More recently, Piet has investigated drug resistance in cancer cells, focusing on drug transporters that pump drugs out. He found that an important role of one of these drug transporters is to prevent uptake of drugs from our gut or penetration of drugs into our brain. He also discovered how absence of some other transporters lead to inborn disease.
Piet has won many awards for his work, including the Dr H P Heineken Prize for Biochemistry and Biophysics. He was awarded an honorary CBE in 2007.