Winners of the UNESCO Equatorial Guinea International Prize in Life Sciences Research 2019

Dr. Cato T. Laurencin (United States), Professor Kevin McGuigan (Ireland) and Professor Youyou Tu (China) are the three winners of the UNESCO Equatorial Guinea International Prize in Life Sciences Research.

The prizes, awarded for the fifth time, recognise outstanding scientific projects in the area of life sciences which have contributed towards improving the quality of human life.

The prize thus recognises the essential contribution of Dr. Cato T. Laurencin to regenerative engineering applied to the development of biomaterials for clinical use, to stem cell science, nanotechnology and the system of administration for pharmaceuticals. Over a million patients throughout the world have benefited from these innovations.

Dr. Laurencin is a professor, biomedical engineer and orthopaedic surgeon. He leads in Connecticut an institute for regenerative engineering ( the Connecticut Convergence Institute for Translation in Regenerative Engineering) and at the university in the US city a centre for engineering sciences, the Raymond and Beverly Sackler Center for Biomedical, Biological, Physical, and Engineering Sciences at the University of Connecticut. His outstanding contributions to scientific progress are recognised throughout the world.

Professor Kevin McGuigan, from the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland, RCSI, was awarded the prize for his research on the development and application of Solar water disinfection, SODIS. This allows the combat of diseases transmitted by water, which affect those who do not have access to drinking water, particularly in African and Asia.

His focus is pioneering, not only in laboratory research, but particularly in the field, among the communities most exposed to diseases transmitted by water in developing countries. His research group has shown since 1996 the impact of the use of solar water disinfection on childhood diarrhoea and then on dysentery. Later its effectiveness against all the main pathogens transmitted through water was demonstrated.

Professor Youyou Tu of the Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences, winner of the Nobel Prize for Medicine in 2015, was given the prize for his work on parasitic diseases. He discovered a new complete anti malarial treatment, artemisinin, with which he treated thousands of patients in China in the 1980s.

Since the start of the 21st century, the World Health Organisation (WHO) has recommended the combined therapy based on artemisinin as the leading treatment against malaria. As a result, a combination of measures and products based on artemisinin has saved 6.2 million lives. In Africa, mortality due to malaria has dropped by 66%, and up to 71% among children under five.

The recommendations for the selection of these winners were made by an international jury made up of five eminent scientists: Professor Vincent Titanji (Cameroon), Professor Indrani Karunasagar (India), Professor Wagida Anwar (Egypt), Dr. Constantinos Phanis (Cyprus) and Professor Pathmanathan Umaharan (Trinidad and Tobago).

The three winners share a cash prize of 350,000 dollars and each will receive a diploma and statuette by the Equatoguinean artist, Leandro Mbomio Nsue. The award ceremony will take place in February 2020, at a Summit of African Union Heads of State that is to take place in Addis Abeba, Ethiopia.

Source: Official Web Page of the Government of the Republic of Equatorial Guinea

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