Interdisciplinary
Innovative
Award
2016
Dr István Kézsmárki

Dr Kézsmárki received his Master’s degree in physics in 1999, obtained his PhD in 2003, and his habilitation in 2015. In 2003 and 2004, he was a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Tokyo. Between 2005 and 2008, he was an assistant professor at the Budapest University of Technology and Economics, and a scientific co-worker in the Electron Transport Research Group of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences. From 2008 to 2013, he worked as a senior researcher in the Condensed Matter Research Group of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences. He has been an associate professor at the Budapest University of Technology and Economics since 2014.

As an independent scientist, he has conducted original research in the various fields of condensed matter physics and optics including collective excitations in itinerant and insulating magnets, optical properties of multiferroic materials, and the magneto-optical diagnosis of malaria. He has achieved important results in these topics. He has also discovered a new type of skyrmion lattice – a periodic array of spin vortices –, the so-called Néel-type skyrmion lattice, in polar magnetic semiconductors.

In 2014, he founded the Magneto-Optical Spectroscopy Group at the Budapest University of Technology and Economics with the support of the Lendület Program of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences. The group, led by Dr Kézsmárki, joined the research agenda of enhancing the efficiency of diagnosing malaria in resource-limited areas.

Ágnes Orbán and Ádám Butykai (PhD students representing the group at the Gran Gala) played key roles in the development and validation of a magneto-optical device for the diagnosis of malaria. Dr András Halbritter, Tamás Prok (bachelor student in the group), and Ágnes Orbán played an important role in the development of another diagnostic technique based on quartz crystal microbalance sensors. Petra Molnár, Zsófia Pröhle (bachelor students in the group), and András Molnár (mechanical engineer) also contributed to the development and testing of the magneto-optical diagnostic tool. Dr Hansheid was an international collaborator in the project from the Institute of Molecular Medicine, Lisbon, Portugal.

The diagnostic device is based on a simple off-the-shelf laser diode and permanent magnets. The first prototype of the instrument was constructed and tested by doctoral students Ádám Butykai and Ágnes Orbán. All validation steps, performed on laboratory parasite cultures, on infected mice and on human patients in Thailand and Papua New-Guinea, underlined the extreme sensitivity of the device, qualifying it as a potential candidate for in-field diagnostic use.

Furthermore, the instrument has also proved to be efficient in monitoring the inhibitory effects of antimalarial drugs. With the increasing resistance of parasites to first-line treatments, the investigation of novel drug candidate molecules is of crucial importance. The device offers an inexpensive, yet highly sensitive method that can be applied in drug development. Along this line, in collaboration with Dr Beáta Vértessy, Dr Kézsmárki has established the joint malaria research laboratory of the Budapest University of Technology and the Hungarian Academy of Sciences, a research infrastructure unique in Central Europe.

The efforts of Dr István Kézsmárki’s research team, stressing the need to integrate various scientific institutes into the tremendous research work to fight malaria, show a great concern for the whole world.