Developing World Researchers Honoured by Scientific Academy

TWAS, the Academy of Sciences for the Developing World, has announced its 2005 prize winners. The annual TWAS Prizes, awarded in eight fields of scientific research, rank among the highest scientific accolades given to scientists in developing countries.

TWAS, the Academy of Sciences for the Developing World, has announced its 2005 prize winners. The annual TWAS Prizes, awarded in eight fields of scientific research, rank among the highest scientific accolades given to scientists in developing countries. Each TWAS Prize carries a cash award of US$10,000.
The TWAS Prizes for 2005 were announced at the TWAS 15th General Meeting, held at the Bibliotheca Alexandrina in Alexandria, Egypt, 29 November - 3 December.
The prizes will be presented at the next General Meeting of TWAS, scheduled to take place in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, in September 2006.

Among this year’s prize winners is the first Bangladeshi scientist to be awarded a TWAS Prize, Shah M. Faruque, International Centre for Diarrhoeal Disease Research, Dhaka, Bangladesh, who won the Prize in Medical Sciences:
for his contributions to the understanding of natural phenomena associated with cholera epidemics.

Shah Faruque's research focuses on the use of advanced molecular biology techniques to address health-related issues in developing countries. While he has contributed significantly to the understanding of the molecular epidemiology of such diseases as Shigella and diarrhoea-causing Escherichia coli, his major contribution has been in elucidating the genetics and epidemiology of cholera.
The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that a million people are infected with cholera each year and that more than 100,000 are killed by the disease. By analysing the genetic make-up of the Vibrio cholerae bacterium during several outbreaks in Asia, Africa and Latin America, Faruque and his colleagues demonstrated that new toxigenic strains of the bacterium arise frequently. Faruque also showed how these variations emerge.
For example, the gene for cholera toxin, the agent mainly responsible for the severe diarrhoeal symptoms associated with cholera, is not carried directly by the bacterium, but by a virus-like bacteriophage known as CTX that infects the bacterium. Only V. cholerae bacteria infected by this CTX phage are toxigenic. Faruque and his team then investigated the possible role of environmental factors in the propagation of toxigenic V. cholerae. They showed that, under the influence of sunlight, non-toxigenic strains of V. cholerae could take up the CTX phage and thus become toxigenic.
Faruque and his colleagues have also identified a series of other phages that are associated with V. cholerae and play important roles in the transmission of cholera toxin and the emergence of new toxigenic strains.
As well as being head of the molecular genetics unit at the International Centre for Diarrhoeal Disease Research, Bangladesh, Faruque is also a senior associate in the Department of International Health at Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, Maryland, USA, and has published more than 70 scientific papers, many in high-impact, international journals.

Shah M. Faruque can be contacted at: International Centre for Diarrhoeal Disease Research, Dhaka, Bangladesh
Tel: (+880) 2 988 6464
Fax: (+880) 2 881 2529
E-mail: [email protected]

Alex Enrique Bustillo Pardey, Cenicafe, Manizales, Colombia, won the Prize in Agricultural Sciences:
for his outstanding contributions to the protection of coffee using biological agents based on beneficial fungi and insect parasitoids to control the coffee berry borer.

Originally from Africa, the coffee berry borer (Hypothenemus hampei) has become a serious pest of coffee worldwide. In Colombia, the one millimetre-long insect is responsible for reducing the country's coffee production by some 15 percent.
Although the coffee berry borer was being controlled effectively by chemical pesticides on much of Colombia's 900,000 hectare coffee crop, there were fears that the over-use of insecticides could cause health problems for some of the 550,000 Colombian families involved in coffee cultivation.
Based on his experience in the biological control of pests of other crops, most notably conifer plantations in Colombia, Alex Enrique Bustillo Pardey began to develop an integrated pest management programme for coffee. After several years' research, a scheme based on a beneficial fungus that infects insects, Beauveria bassiana, and a group of three parasitoid wasps that lay their eggs in the borer's grubs, was rolled out across Colombia.
First, Bustillo and his team developed a way of producing enough B. bassiana to spray 1 hectare of coffee crop for just US$2, compared to the US$10 cost from commercial sources. Indeed, the method of fungus production is so simple that several private companies producing the spores have since been established in Colombia. In addition, the Colombian Coffee Federation produces more than 100 tons of the product each year. According to Donald W. Roberts of the Boyce Thompson Institute for Plant Research, Cornell University, USA, this represents the world's largest biological control programme aimed against a single insect in a single crop.
In addition, three species of parasitoid wasp were imported from Africa. These were initially bred in Bustillo's laboratory where a system for large-scale production was developed. This technology was then transferred to some 11 private companies. Today, it is estimated that some 1,600 million such wasps have been released into Colombian coffee crops and samples show that they have established themselves in all areas where the coffee borer was endemic.
Another indicator of the impact of Bustillo's work is the estimation that, thanks to the sprays of the beneficial fungus and the release of the parasitoids, coffee revenues in Colombia have increased by some US$120 million a year.
Bustillo has been awarded the Colombian National Science Prize on three occasions (1976, 1977 and 1995), the Medalla al Merito Agricola from the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture (IICA), the Corporacion Andina de Fomento (Andean Promotion Corporation) 2002 prize for his contributions to innovative technological developments and, most recently, the Science Merit Prize of the Colombian Association for the Advancement of Science (ACAS) in December 2004.

Alex Enrique Bustillo Pardey can be contacted at: Cenicafe, Apartado aereo 2427, Manizales, Colombia
Tel: (+57) 6 850 6550
Fax: (+57) 6 850 4623
E-mail: [email protected]

This year, the judges awarded two prizes in biology.
Huanming Yang, Beijing Genomics Institute, China, won the Prize in Biology:
for his outstanding achievements and contributions in genomics and bioinformatics research.
Jerson Silva, Instituto de Bioquimica Medica, Federal University of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, won the Prize in Biology:
for his pioneering work with high pressure in biotechnology and structural biology that has yielded new insights into protein folding, virus assembly and protein misfolding diseases.

China was the only developing country to play a role in the sequencing of the human genome, which was published in 2001. As director of the Beijing Genomics Institute since 1999, Huanming Yang was a key player in this effort. Since then, Yang's group in China has published the complete genome sequence of Indica rice and the silkmoth, and steady progress is being made on the genomes of other commercially important species, including the chicken, pig and soybean. Yang and his team also made international headlines when they announced that they had sequenced the genome of the SARS virus in just a few days. Information derived from the sequence led to the development of diagnostic kits for the virus that greatly facilitated the control of the disease throughout China. Currently, Yang and other scientists at the Beijing Institute of Genomics are working on another project linked with the human genome as part of the International HapMap Consortium. The aim is to compare the genomes of three different races of human beings and to identify all the single base substitutions in blocks of DNA (or haplotypes) between them. Scientists believe that these variations are at the root of such ailments as heart disease and asthma, the incidence of which varies between races.
Yang has also promoted science for developing countries in developing countries, and promotes the ethical use of genomic data and open access publishing for all the information generated at the Beijing Institute of Genomics.
Among his various honours, Yang received the Award for Outstanding Science and Technology Achievement from the government of China in 2002, was nominated Research Leader of the Year by Scientific American magazine in 2002, and won the Nikkei Asia Prize for Science, 2003.

Huanming Yang can be contacted at: Beijing Genomics Institute, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing Airport Industrial Zone B-6, Beijing 101300, China
Tel: (+86) 10 8049 4969
Fax: (+86) 10 8049 1181
E-mail: [email protected]

Proteins are complex macromolecules that perform a wide range of functions in all living organisms. However, they are made of relatively simple subunits, amino acids. Indeed, the diversity of all the proteins in all the living organisms on Earth is based on combinations of just 20 different amino acids. It is how each protein twists and folds its chain of amino acids into a three-dimensional form that gives it its specific characteristics.
Jerson Silva has spent his career analysing how proteins fold into the correct shapes and how they form supramolecular complexes such as virus particles. In 1992, for example, he predicted the potential of high pressure to induce partially folded and molten-globule protein states. A year later, these predictions were confirmed for pressure-denatured proteins. Silva also showed that such partially denatured proteins contained a significant amount of water and predicted a role for water in the action of pressure on proteins. In addition, using a combination of high pressures and sub-zero temperatures, Silva demonstrated that the interaction between protein molecules and such nucleic acid molecules as DNA depends on the 'entropy' or 'disorder' in the system, and that the nature of such protein-nucleic acid interactions is crucial for the assembly of virus particles that contain little else other than protein and nucleic acid.
More recently, Silva and his colleagues have expanded their work, exploring biophysical approaches to the study of diseases caused by the misfolding of proteins. Such ailments include Parkinson's disease and bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE, or 'mad cow disease').
Silva was nominated a fellow of the John Simon Guggenhem Foundation in 1991, an international fellow of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (1997-2001), and elected to the Brazilian Academy of Sciences in 1998.

Jerson Silva can be contacted at: Centro Nacional de Ressonancia Magnetica Nuclear de Macromoleculas (CNRNM), Instituto de Bioquimica Medica (CCS), Federal University of Rio de Janeiro, Ilha do Fundao, 21941-590 Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Tel: (+2151) 2562 6756
Fax: (+2151) 3881 4155
E-mail: [email protected]

Krishna Ganesh, National Chemical Laboratory, Pune, India, won the Prize in Chemistry:
for his outstanding contributions to molecular recognition-based design, synthesis, bioorganic and biophysical studies of novel chemically-modified DNA and PNA with potential applications in therapeutics and diagnostics.

Krishna Ganesh is a pioneer of the emerging field of bioorganic chemistry, also called chemical biology, not only in India but worldwide. His exploration of the chemistry of nucleic acids and their interactions with peptides (short pieces of protein chains) has resulted in a series of insights and applications in a range of different fields.
For example, by attaching fluorescent molecules to short sections of DNA with specific sequences, these complexes can be used as primers to amplify longer stretches of DNA via the polymerase chain reaction (PCR). This technique, which is much safer than the traditional method that relies on the use of radioactively labelled primers, has been used to detect such genetic diseases as thalassaemia in humans and bovine herpes in cattle and can be extended to diagnose many other diseases.
Other potential therapeutic and diagnostic applications may be derived from Ganesh's work on peptide nucleic acids (PNAs). These macromolecular complexes, discovered 12 years ago, can act as DNA mimics. To be useful as therapeutic agents, however, such PNA molecules must be able to distinguish between RNA and DNA. In a series of 25 publications over the past eight years, Ganesh and his group have described the design, synthesis and evaluation of a number of PNAs capable of such discrimination.
Ganesh has also contributed to the study of triplex DNA. In nature, the DNA molecule exists as a classic double helix structure. By altering some of the nucleic acid building blocks, Ganesh has produced both duplexes and triplexes with functional advantages over natural DNA in terms of stability and membrane permeability. Such complexes are being studied for their potential uses in gene therapy.
The diversity of Ganesh's work is shown by his application of chemical biology to nanotechnology. Recently, he has used DNA as a template for the organization of encapsulated gold nanoparticles to generate linear nano-assemblies. The ultimate aim of this research is to develop a method of producing gold nanowires.
Among the honours awarded to Ganesh during his career have been the Science Academy Medal for Young Scientists awarded by the Indian National Science Academy, 1985; the Millennium Leadership Medal in Science, awarded by the Indian Science Congress, 2000; and the Silver Medal of the Chemical Research Society of India, 2004. Ganesh is also a fellow of the Indian Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Sciences, India, the Indian National Science Academy and the Royal Society of Chemistry (London, United Kingdom).

Krishna Ganesh can be contacted at: Division of Organic Chemistry (Synthesis), National Chemical Laboratory, Pune 411008, India
Tel: (+91) 20 2589 3153
Fax: (+91) 20 2589 3153
E-mail: [email protected]

Rixiang Zhu, Institute of Geology and Geophysics, Beijing, China, won the Prize in Earth Sciences:
for his outstanding work on the Earth's ancient magnetic field, including magnetic dating and enviromagnectics.

Rixiang Zhu's studies focus on both theoretical and applied aspects of paleomagnetism. This area of research relies on the fact that, over geological time, the polarity of the Earth's magnetic field has switched many times from north to south and back again. These changes are recorded in the magnetism contained in rocks deposited during these periods of change and stability.
In particular, Zhu has studied the events leading up to the period known as the Cretaceous Normal Superchron (CNS), an era that lasted about 40 million years (121 to 84 million years ago) and that is typified by the unusually long duration of the apparent stability of the geomagnetic field. By studying the magnetic properties of ancient volcanic rocks, Zhu found that variations in the intensity of the Earth's magnetic field immediately prior to the CNS increased with time and that, during this time interval, there is an inverse relationship between the reversal rate of the Earth's polarity and its intensity, indicating that the two characteristics are inherently linked. These results have provided geologists with a more complete understanding of the Earth's dynamo – the effect of the earth's rotation on the liquid conducting core of the planet that produces the earth's magnetic polarity.
Magnetism in rocks can also be used to date ancient artefacts and Zhu and his colleagues have applied their know-how to paleolithic sites in China. Following excavations in the Nihewan Basin, China, for example, layers containing early human artefacts have been dated to between 1.32 and 1.66 million years ago. This latter date significantly predates the oldest unambiguous human presence in northeast Asia and implies the flourishing of human groups over long periods during the early Pleistocene period in the region. Together with studies of ancient human fossils in Europe, these findings have led to a fundamental change in our understanding of the timing, speed of spread and adaptability to diverse environments during early human evolution.
Zhu has also applied his paleomagnetic techniques to the study of the Chinese loess – sand-like deposits laid down over millennia – which has led to many insights into global climate change over geological time.
Zhu was awarded a first-class Natural Sciences Prize by the Chinese Academy of Sciences in 1996, elected to the Chinese Academy of Sciences in 2003 (born in 1955, he is one of the Academy's youngest members), and has been awarded the Scientific and Technological Progress Prize of the HLHL Foundation (Hong Kong), 2004.

Rixiang Zhu can be contacted at: Paleomagnetism and Geochronology Laboratory, Institute of Geology and Geophysics IGG), Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS), Beijing 100029, China
Tel: (+86) 10 6200 7912
Fax: (+55) 10 6237 2053
E-mail: [email protected]

Mauricio Terrones, Instituto Potosino de Investigacion Cientifica y Tecnologica (IPICYT), San Luis Potosi, Mexico, won the prize in Engineering Sciences:
for his outstanding contributions to the synthesis and characterization of novel carbon-based nano-materials.

Aged 37, Mauricio Terrones is the youngest scientist ever to win a TWAS Prize. His research involves a unique interdisciplinary approach, combining the production of nanomaterials with electron microscopy techniques for analysis, and molecular simulations for predicting the stability and properties of nanostructures. In 1997, he described a novel self-assembly route for the production of matrices of aligned carbon nanotubes. This work laid the foundation for other researchers to produce aligned nanotube arrays.
In 1998 and 1999, he published the first descriptions of the synthesis and characterization of nitrogen-containing (or 'N-doped') carbon nanotubes, stating that these structures could be used as stable field emitters, sensors, protein immobilizers and polymer composite fillers. More recently, in 2005, he demonstrated a method for producing clean and highly crystalline double-walled carbon nanotubes. These and other materials, including nanowires, that Terrones has created in his laboratory, are likely to have a number of uses in nanoelectronics and in the fabrication of novel composite materials.
From the theoretical point of view, Terrones was the first to explain the sphericity of giant nested fullerenes (or buckyballs) based on the introduction of defects, a model now known as the Terrones model. He has also explained and observed the coalescence of carbon nanotubes in situ and predicted novel forms of metallic carbon.
Terrones has contributed to the establishment of nanoscience in Mexico, particularly by establishing the first Fullerene and Nanotube Laboratory in the country (at the National Autonomous University of Mexico, UNAM) and a nanoscience laboratory at the Instituto Potosino de Investigacion Cientifica y Tecnologica (IPICYT).
Among the honours Terrones has received are the National Prize for Chemistry (2000) for his contributions to the nanotechnology of layered materials. In 2001, he was elected a fellow of the Mexican Academy of Sciences and was awarded the Javed Husein Prize for Young Scientists and received an Albert Einstein Silver Medal from UNESCO. More recently, in 2004, he was presented with the Mexican Achiever Prize in Science and Technology by the Mexican magazines Expansión and Vuelo.

Mauricio Terrones can be contacted at: Advanced Materials Department, Instituto Potosino de Investigacion Cientifica y Tecnologica (IPICYT), San Luis Potosi 78216, SLP, Mexico
Tel: (+52) 444 834 2039
Fax: (+52) 444 834 2040
E-mail: [email protected]

Parimala Raman, Tata Institute of Fundamental Research, Mumbai, India, won the Prize in Mathematics:
for her work on the quadratic analogue of Serre's conjecture, the triviality of principal homogenous spaces of classical groups over cohomological dimension-2 fields and on the u-invariant of p-adic function fields.
Note: This is the first time in the 20-year history of the TWAS awards that a woman has been honoured with the prize in either Mathematics or Physics.

Parimala Raman has been described as a "supreme and powerful algebraist". Early in her career, she published the first example of a nontrivial quadratic space over an affine plane. This result surprised many experts and has since led to further developments in the field.
Her study of quadratic forms also led her to investigate real algebraic geometry as well as complex algebraic geometry and the cohomology theories that are linked to it. Parimala has put this expertise to work in a series of elegant publications either supporting or refuting long-standing conjectures. Her study of low rank quadratic spaces, for example, led her to a new definition of discriminant that is an invariant for involutions of central simple algebras that allowed her to settle decomposability questions for involutions that date back to Albert in the 1930s.
Parimala has also brought light to the solution for the second Serre conjecture, expounded in 1962 but based on work by Witt around 1930. In another piece of work that has been described as a "tour-de-force", Raman has come closest to solving another long-standing conjecture. In the 1950s, it was predicted that the u-invariant of the rational function field over a p-adic field is finite and, in fact, equals 8. Until recently, even the finiteness of the u-invariant was not known, until demonstrated by Merkurjev. Van Geel-Hoffmann then calculated a value of around 22 for the u-invariant. Together with Suresh, Parimala has shown that the u-invariant of the function field of any curve over a p-adic field is less than or equal to 10, very close to the conjectured value of 8.
Parimala has been invited to speak at several international mathematics meetings where her lectures have been cited as among the best and "delivered in a masterly fashion". She was, for example, invited to speak at the 1994 International Congress of Mathematics held in Zurich, Switzerland, and was later awarded Docteur Honoris Causa by the University of Lausanne, also in Switzerland (1999). In addition, she has been elected as a fellow of the Indian National Science Academy, the National Academy of Sciences, India, and the Indian Academy of Sciences.

Parimala Raman can be contacted at: School of Mathematics, Tata Institute of Fundamental Research, Homi Bhabha Road, Mumbai 400 005, India
Tel: (+91) 22 2280 4545 ext. 2392
Fax: (+91) 22 2280 4610/4611
E-mail: [email protected]

Enge Wang, Institute of Physics, Beijing, China, won the Prize in Physics:
for his pioneering work on the synthesis of tubular graphite cones and nanobells, and his innovative studies of the formation and decay mechanisms in surface-based nanostructures.

Enge Wang's main research accomplishments include the fundamental understanding of the kinetics involved in the formation and decay of surface-based nanostructures and the development of the chemical vapour deposition of light-element nanomaterials to produce novel nanostructures.
Among the surface-based nanostructures he has studied are quantum dots, quantum wires and quantum-thin films. Among the novel nanostructures Wang has produced are tubular graphite cones, polymerized carbon nitride nanobells and aligned boron carbon nitride nanotubes.
Concerning quantum-thin films, Wang has described a Reaction-Limited-Aggregation (RLA) theory that describes the morphological evolution of two-dimensional islands in the presence of a surfactant. Within the RLA model, a fractal-to-compact island shape transition can be induced by either decreasing the growth temperature or increasing the deposition flux, both of assertions conflict with the previously accepted Diffusion-Limited-Aggregation (DLA) model. Recent experimental evidence supports Wang's version.
More recently, Wang has applied his theoretical knowledge and experimental expertise to produce novel nanostructures. By using microwave plasma-assisted chemical vapour deposition, Wang and his colleagues synthesized tubular graphite cones with nanometre-sized tips, micrometre-sized bases and hollow interiors. These cones have potential applications as tips in scanning tunnelling microscopes with greater rigidity and easier mounting than the currently used carbon nanotubes.
Wang and his group have also produced nanobells. As one example, short nanotubes containing a few nanobells were produced from long carbon nitride nanotubes. In this case, the shortest nanotubes composed of a single nanobell were just 15 nanometres in both length and diameter. In addition, Wang devised a method of synthesizing a heterojunction between polymerized carbon nitride nanobells and pure carbon cylindrical nanotubes. The intimate correlation between properties and structures on both sides of the junction offers potential applications in future nanodevices.
In 1999, Wang was presented with the Yeng-Ke Award for Outstanding Young Researcher by the Chinese Academy of Sciences, he is currently secretary general of the Chinese Physical Society, and was elected a fellow of the Institute of Physics (London, United Kingdom) in 2003. His work has also resulted in the award of two patents.

Enge Wang can be contacted at: Institute of Physics, Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS), Box 603, Beijing 100080, China
Tel: (+86) 10 8264 9469
Fax: (+86) 10 8264 9244
E-mail: [email protected]

Founded in 1983 by the Nobel Prize-winning Pakistani physicist Abdus Salam, TWAS seeks to support scientists in developing countries and honour their achievements.
For additional information
Daniel Schaffer, TWAS Public Information Officer. Tel: (+39) 040 2240 538
E-mail: [email protected]

Published: 21 Dec 2005

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