Director of the genetics department at the University of Groningen, Dr. Gerard Venema was awarded a major international prize on 23 June 1992. The award came in recognition of work carried out over a ten-year period, including much which was undertaken in the context of the Community's Biomolecular Engineering Programme (BEP, 1982-1986) and Biotechnology Action Programme (BAP, 1996-1989). The American Dairy Science Association chose Dr. Venema for the 1992 Marshall Rhone-Poulenc International Dairy Science Award in recognition of research achievements concerning Bacillus Subtilis, an industrially useful bacterium, and Lactic Acid Bacteria (LAB). Since 1982, Dr. Venema has been one of the cornerstones of work being done in Europe in this field. LABs play a role in the production of fermented food and drinks such as cheese and dairy products. However, LABs were until recently relatively poorly understood. In the last decade their physiology and genetics has become the subject of intensive study. In Europe, a large part of the work has been coordinated under the auspices of Community research programmes. In the context of the BEP and BAP programmes, Dr. Venema's team has undertaken research with four other groups from Holland, England, Ireland and Germany. This cooperation led to the creation of the first "European Laboratory without walls", a mechanism for effective collaboration now used in many other sectors.