As a child, Bart Knols, born in September 1965 in the Netherlands, was always fascinated by nature, which led him to pursue biology at Wageningen University in 1983. After hearing a lecture about the side effects of aerial spraying with insecticides against tsetse flies in Africa, he took a particular interest in insects, the diseases they transmit to humans and animals and what can be done to control them. Soon after, he got his first opportunity to work in Africa, developing low-cost odour-baited traps for the control of tsetse flies in Kenya. Still during his undergraduate studies, Professor Bart Knols worked for the first time with malaria mosquitoes and graduated cum laude in 1989. In the same year, he returned to his work on tsetse flies, this time on Zambia; he worked there for three years, learning more about creating elimination campaigns, which would prove useful in the future, this time against dengue and malaria.
In 1993, Professor Bart Knols returned to Holland, where he was offered a PhD position to work once more on African malaria mosquitoes. He worked on it in Africa for ten years, considering mosquitoes both his passion and his greatest enemies. In 2002, he was offered a research position within the United Nations to work on the development of the Sterile Insect Technique (a technique where male mosquitoes are sterilized through radiation). In 2006, Professor Bart Knols did an MBA and was offered an Assistant Professor position at his alma mater. However, in 2009 he realized that in his recent years he wasn’t fulfilling his dream of contributing to solve diseases like sleeping sickness or malaria, to do research “not to yield another paper, but research that can make a difference in the real world”. As such, he left his University and founded several companies with a more hands-on approach to fight malaria.
Among his achievements, Professor Bart Knols is particularly proud of discovering that Limburger cheese attracts malaria mosquitoes (which awarded him an Ig Nobel in 2006), pioneering the use of fungi as a biological control tool for malaria mosquitoes, patenting a pill that is toxic for mosquitoes and harmless on humans, and realizing dogs can learn to recognize the smell of mosquito larvae. In 2007, Professor Bart Knols was awarded the Eijkman medal, the highest award in the field of tropical medicine and international health in the Netherlands.