the Fernand Lambein fund

Fernand Lambein was born in Oostende, Belgium, in 1938 and grew up in Ghent. Here, after his bachelor’s in agricultural engineering, majoring in chemistry, he continued his studies with a master’s degree in molecular biology. Still, at the University of Ghent in 1969, he obtained his Ph.D. As a winner of the prestigious Fulbright Fellowship, Fernand flew to Michigan in 1970, where he worked as a postdoc at Michigan State University. After two years in the USA, in 1972, Fernand returned to Ghent, where he worked in the Physiological Chemistry lab at the Faculty of Medicine until his retirement as a professor in 2003. 

While attending the International Symposium on Genus Lathyrus, in 1985, he discovered that the biosynthesis of the toxin of Lathyrus sativus was unknown and realized the compound he discovered in his previous studies on pea and sweet pea seedling might have been the precursor of the grass pea toxin.  In grass pea, Fernand saw a plant with great potential and a nasty danger. This legume has a unique drought resistance, but when overconsumed, it can cause a neuro-degenerative crippling disease, neurolathyrism. The condition occurs mainly in Asia and Africa, where grass pea has become a staple food due to drought-trigged famine.

Aware that science is human work and needs to be passed on, Fernand was always actively creating awareness and interest among the scientific community. His goal was to eradicate neurolathyrism by promoting L. sativus as a nutritious food in a balanced diet, not as a staple food. He worked hard to gain funds from the Belgian government and the EU Commission to set up multidisciplinary projects within Asian (India, Bangladesh), African (Ethiopia), and European (England) countries. Throughout his career, Fernand has collaborated with researchers in China, Japan, and Canada, as well as with the International Center for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas (ICARDA). 


Fernand Lambein, who passed away in early 2020, believed his work was unfinished. His mission was to eradicate neurolathyrism and promote Lathyrus sativus as a nourishing food source on par with other legumes. He occasionally played the lottery, hoping to establish a fund to support further research on the legume if he won. Inspired by his unwavering passion, we are committed to making his dream come true. The Fernand Lambein Fund is a testament to Fernand’s unwavering dedication to science and his profound desire to make a lasting impact on the world. The focus is, of course, on Lathyrus sativus. However, we wanted to expand the impact of the fund, so we broadened its mission. We aim to promote knowledge and technology transfer to developing countries, focusing on sustainable food solutions. Fernand recognized the added value of collaborating with scientists from diverse disciplines and countries to drive societal changes. We want to bring this same mindset to his fund: we aim to continue his groundbreaking research and foster a spirit of cooperation within the scientific community.  

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Do you want to promote Lathyrus sativus as a nourishing

 food source on par with other legumes? 

Make a donation and help our fund grow!