Piet Borst was born (1934) and raised in Amsterdam (Netherlands), where he studied medicine and completed his PhD in biochemistry in 1961 (supervisor E.C. Slater). After a postdoc period in 1963-64 in New York in the lab of Severo Ochoa, he returned to a chair in biochemistry in Amsterdam University. In 1983 he became the director of the Netherlands Cancer Institute, where he remained after mandatory retirement in 1999. Although research and teaching remained his main occupations, Borst was a member of the scientific advisory boards (SACs) of several institutes and prize jury’s Louis Jeantet Prize. For his research Borst received several awards and honorary doctorates, including the Heineken Prize, the German Ehrlich Prize, and the German Koch medal. Borst is a member of the Academia Europeae and a foreign (honorary) member of the National Academy (US), the American Academy of the Arts and Sciences and the British Royal Society. Borst is a Commander in the Order of the Dutch Lion and an honorary foreign Commander of the British Empire.

Research Interests

I started in research in 1958 with a thesis on tumor mitochondria and on the side I discovered the malate-aspartate shuttle. As postdoc I switched to RNA phage replication in E coli (with Charles Weissmann) and, after my return to Amsterdam, I combined mitochondria and nucleic acids and discovered the circular mtDNA in vertebrates and in yeast. The mtDNA led me to trypanosomatid kinetoplast DNA and the discovery of the glycosome and eventually to the elucidation of the major mechanism for antigenic variation in African trypanosomes (with George Cross), and to the discovery of DNA base J and its biosynthesis and function. After moving to the cancer institute, I started a project on multidrug resistance (MDR). By making KO mice, we discovered the physiological function of several ABC-transporters thought to be involved in MDR: ABCB4 a phosphatidylcholine transporter, essential for making bile; ABCB1(P-glycoprotein) essential for preventing entry of amphipathic toxins from the gut and into the brain; and ABCC6 mediating the transport of ATP from the liver into the bloodstream. I closed my lab in 2015, but write reviews and remain peripherally involved in some research in my institute and by my former postdocs in projects that they started in my lab.

Membership Type

International Member

Election Year


Primary Section

Section 22: Cellular and Developmental Biology

Secondary Section

Section 21: Biochemistry