UNESCO - United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization

03/10/2023 | Press release | Distributed by Public on 03/10/2023 23:08

UNESCO-Equatorial Guinea International Prize for Research in the Life Sciences to be awarded to four laureates in Malabo

Press release

UNESCO-Equatorial Guinea International Prize for Research in the Life Sciences to be awarded to four laureates in Malabo

Today, four exceptional scientists from China, Egypt, Lithuania and Uzbekistan will receive the prestigious UNESCO-Equatorial Guinea International Prize for Research in the Life Sciences at a ceremony in Malabo, Equatorial Guinea. Their research has contributed to improving food security, cotton varieties, diagnostic tools and innovative treatments for debilitating genetic disorders.
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10 March 2023
This prize rewards outstanding research that has contributed to improving the quality of human life. The life sciences offer an enormous potential for medical progress but also for more responsible management of our natural resources.
Audrey AzoulayDirector-General of UNESCO

Each laureate will receive an award of US$ 87,500. The laureates are:

Yigong Shi (China) is honoured for groundbreaking research which opens the door to the design of innovative therapeutics for treating debilitating genetic disorders. Thanks to him, we now know how genetic information stored in DNA is converted into functional proteins. This type of protein helps the body form antibodies to fight infection. Through a process known as splicing, our DNA is transcribed into messenger RNA (mRNA), a molecule that serves as the blueprint for building proteins. Prof. Shi has decoded the atomic structure of yeast and human spliceosomes and elucidated the molecular basis of pre-mRNA splicing.

Dr Shi is the Founding President of Westlake University, a new type of research university in China.

Mosaad Attia Abdel-Wahhab (Egypt) is honoured for having developed innovative techniques for removing microbial and chemical contaminants from crops such as mould (fungi), heavy metals and pesticide residues. This reduces food losses and, thereby, improve food security.

Mr Mosaad Attia Abdel-Wahhab is a professor at the Department of Food Toxicology and Contaminants at the National Research Center. He established the Egyptian Society of Science and Halal Products in 2016.

Almira Ramanaviciene (Lithuania) is honoured for her outstanding contribution to the design of novel immunosensors which have led to more sensitive and, thus, more reliable, diagnostic tools. Prof. Ramanaviciene has developed immunosensors that are capable of monitoring protein levels in the human body with greater accuracy than before. These protein levels serve as an indicator of disease. Her work thus enables doctors to diagnose diseases more accurately and monitor their progression better.

Prof. Ramanaviciene is head of the Nano Technas Centre of Nanotechnology and Materials Science in the Faculty of Chemistry and Geosciences at Vilnius University. She is also chief researcher of the Biosensor research group in the Department of Immunology at the State Research Institute Centre for Innovative Medicine in Vilnius.

Ibrokhim Abdurakhmonov (Uzbekistan) is honoured for having developed molecular markers that can be used to identify desirable traits in cotton, such as disease resistance, superior fibre quality and a higher yield, which can boost cotton production. These markers allow breeders to identify and select plants with these desirable traits more quickly and accurately.

Prof. Abdurakhmonov founded the Centre of Genomics and Bioinformatics of Uzbekistan in 2012, which he leads.

About the Prize

UNESCO and Equatorial Guinea established the UNESCO-Equatorial Guinea International Prize for Research in the Life Sciences in 2008 to support the achievement of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. 

The prize's core objective is to encourage research, enhance collaboration among researchers and reinforce networks of centres of excellence in the life sciences to accelerate scientific progress around the world.

The international jury unanimously recommended to the Director-General of UNESCO that the prize be shared among the four laureates. The jury was chaired by Professor Indrani Karunasagar (India). Professor Pathmanathan Umaharan (Trinidad and Tobago) served as deputy chair. The three remaining jurors were Professors Wagida Anwar (Egypt), Constantinos Phanis (Cyprus) and Vincent P.K. Titanji (Cameroon).

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