Trieste, Italy, 5 July 2006.
Two medical researchers who have made fundamental contributions to our understanding and prevention of lethal infectious diseases and two mathematicians who have shed light on some of the world's most mind-boggling mathematical problems have won the Trieste Science Prize for 2006.
Chen Ding-Shinn, dean of the National Taiwan University College of Medicine and chair of the Taiwanese Government's Hepatitis Control Committee, and Rao Zihe, professor at Tsinghua University and director of the Chinese Academy of Sciences' Institute of Biophysics, Beijing, will share the prize in the category of medical sciences. Jacob Palis, director-emeritus of the Institute of Pure and Applied Mathematics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, and C.S. Seshadri, founding director, Chennai Mathematical Institute in India, will share the prize in the category of mathematics.
The Trieste Science Prize, which is administered by the Academy of Sciences for the Developing World (TWAS) and funded by illycaffè, provides international recognition to outstanding scientists living and working in the developing world. The winners will share the US$100,000 cash award.
Chen is being honoured for the leading role he played in uncovering the factors responsible for the transmission of the hepatitis B virus from mothers to infants and for proving that this viral disease was associated not only with liver cirrhosis but also with liver cancer. He used this knowledge to gain support for a comprehensive vaccination campaign in Taiwan - a strategy that has since been adopted by countries across the globe. Thanks to Chen's efforts, the incidence of hepatitis B has declined rapidly and hepatocellular carcinoma has become the first human cancer to be prevented through immunization.
Rao is being recognized for his world-class contributions to structural biology and his studies of viruses responsible for human diseases. Rao led a team of Chinese researchers who deciphered the first crystal structure of the coronavirus, which causes Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS). His findings provide a potential framework for the design of anti-SARS drugs. The SARS epidemic infected more than 8,000 people and caused more than 800 deaths in 2003. With the rising incidence of infectious diseases and the risk of pandemics, Rao's focus on the relationship between protein structure and function - and ultimately on protein engineering and drug design - has gained increasing global attention.
Palis has been one of the world's foremost mathematicians in the fields of multi-variable dynamical systems, a sector of mathematics that tries to understand how nonlinear complex phenomena behave over the long term. Such studies have helped enhance our understanding of population growth patterns, global climate change and even fluctuations in the stock market. Palis has also been a driving force behind efforts to strengthen the study of mathematics in Latin America. He served as the director of the Institute of Pure and Applied Mathematics in Rio de Janeiro for more than a decade, transforming the institution into a world-class centre for mathematical research and Latin America's foremost institution for the training of young mathematicians.
Seshadri is being honoured for the prominent role he has played in shaping the field of algebraic geometry, one of the dominant fields in 21st century mathematics. He is a leading figure in such cutting-edge topics as the theory of vector bundles and quotient and compact homogenous spaces. He is recognized as the creator of the Standard Monomial Theory and Seshadri Constant, which have found important applications both in mathematics and physics. Seshadri has also been the leading force behind the creation of the Chennai Mathematical Institute, which over the past decade has emerged as one of world's pre-eminent centres for mathematics.
"In just its second year, the Trieste Science Prize has emerged as one of the most recognized and valued prizes for scientists from the developing world," says C.N.R. Rao, president of TWAS. "This year's prize winners are world-class scientists who have not only made world-class contributions to their fields but have also played prominent roles in the development of scientific institutions in their own countries. They are not only worthy of our congratulations but also worthy of our thanks for making our world a better place."
"The Trieste Science Prize," says Andrea Illy, president and chief executive officer of illycaffè, "offers my company an opportunity to acknowledge the work of scientists in the developing world who have made critical contributions both to science and their societies. The prize winners' accomplishments have enriched both their societies and ours, improving the quality of all of our lives. These are enduring values that illycaffè pursues in all of its actions."