Composition

Division of Biological, Medical, and Geosciences

The Division of Natural Sciences (nature research, mathematics, and technical sciences) was founded in 1941 and at the time it also included biological, medical, chemical, agricultural, and other natural sciences. Juozas Matulis was the first general secretary of this division. In later years, it was headed by Vladas Lašas, Antanas Minkevičius, Vytautas Girdzijauskas, Leonardas Kairiūkštis, Vytautas Kontrimavičius, Vytas Antanas Tamošiūnas, and Vytautas Basys. Since 2018, the division has been chaired by Vaidutis Kučinskas.

Currently, the division has 26 full members, 12 members emeriti, and 20 foreign members who work in four sections: general biology (chaired by Mečislovas Žalakevičius), biology (Saulius Klimašauskas), medical sciences (Rūta Dubakienė), and geosciences (Robert Mokrik) and four commissions: allergology (chaired by Rūta Dubakienė), biotechnology (Vladas Algirdas Bumelis), issues in geo-environment (Robert Mokrik), and mother and child (Arūnas Valiulis, Vilnius University). The division encompasses the Lithuanian Allergy and Asthma Association (chaired by Violeta Kvedarienė, Vilnius University).

Members of the divisions founded the Nature Research Centre, the Zoological Museum, Žuvintai Reserve, and Ventė Cape Bird Ringing Station; they established research schools in parasitology, allergology, geology, biochemistry, bioelectrochemistry, genetics and genomics, cardiac surgery, cardiac electrostimulation, plant physiology, ornithology and bird migration research, marine and shore research, modern biotechnology, immunology and human genetics. The most outstanding recent monographs were written by Gediminas Valkiūnas, Juozas Kulys, Vaidutis Kučinskas, and Mečislovas Žalakevičius. The work conducted by members of the division or research groups headed by them have been honoured with Lithuanian Science Prizes, prizes of the Baltic Assembly, National Progress prizes, and orders of the Republic of Lithuania. Zita Aušrelė Kučinskienė was awarded the Albert Schweitzer gold medal of the Polish Academy of Medicine; Virginijus Šikšnys was awarded Warren Alpert Foundation Prize (Harvard University, USA) for exceptional research in bacterial immune systems, the Novozymes Prize (Denmark), and the Kavli Prize (Norway) in nanoscience. Saulius Klimašauskas is the first Lithuanian scientist to have been awarded the prestigious European Research Council grant.

The section of general biology unites the best known representatives in the branches of general and human genetics, ecology, zoology, botany, ornithology, immunology, and parasitology. They conduct fundamental research into malaria parasites (Gediminas Valkiūnas) and information interaction of the organisms via chemical compounds (Vincas Būda). Significant results have been achieved in the work on the human genome, in determining the origin of the genome of the Europeans and of the Lithuanians, in identifying the genetic causes and mechanisms of intellectual disability (Vaidutis Kučinskas); a new branch of science – climate change ornithology – has been developed and proposed on the basis of research (Mečislovas Žalakevičius).

Virginijus Šikšnys, of the biology section, has determined signaling pathways of cyclic oligonucleotides while examining the mechanisms of microorganism immune systems (CRISPR) and showed their significance in the activation of non-specific degradation of RNA. New methods of epigenetic profiling were developed while investigating the mechanisms of epigenetic inheritance (Saulius Klimašauskas); new methods of protein structure analysis and quality assessment have been designed (Česlovas Venclovas); analysis of yeast gene expression systems has been carried out for the production of heterologous proteins and for design of new diagnostic measures (Kęstutis Sasnauskas).

Members of the section of medical sciences conduct research in cardiology (Remigijus Žaliūnas, Aleksandras Laucevičius); investigate the pathogenesis and risk factors of arteriosclerosis and their relation with the patient’s genome (Zita Aušrelė Kučinskienė); carry out clinical, epidemiological, molecular, genomic, and microbiota research into ulcerous colitis and Crohn’s disease (Limas Kupčinskas); have identified the interaction of environmental and genetic factors in the formation of allergic diseases (Rūta Dubakienė); have identified, through palaeogenomic and palaeopathological tests, the genome peculiarities of the European population of different historical epochs (Rimantas Jankauskas).

Members of the section of geosciences conducted 81 Kr/Kr radioisotopic testing of groundwater in deeper parts of the Baltic region using an extremely sensitive magnetic-optical trap (Robert Mokrik), nuclear geophysical research is directed towards the chronology of processes in past environments and past climate changes (Jonas Mažeika); of extreme importance is the design of the legal system for deep earth examination, use, and protection (Gediminas Motuza-Matuzevičius). Algimantas Grigelis is an active researcher into the history of the discipline of geology in Lithuania. He has published books on the academicians Vytautas Gudelis, Juozas Dalinkevičius, and professors Mykolas Kaveckas and Ignotas Domeika.

The latest achievements in biomedical and geosciences are introduced to the general public at annual conferences ‘Modern Achievements in Biology in Lithuania’ and ‘Biofuture: Perspectives in Nature and Life Sciences’, and at a conference intended for the teachers of Lithuanian schools.