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Professors from China, Brazil, Japan win top medical awards of Thailand
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The International Award Committee of the Prince Mahidol Award Foundation of Thailand announced Friday three professors from China, Brazil and Japan, respectively, have won its 17th Prince Mahidol Award for 2008.

The Prince Mahidol Award 2008 in the field of medicine is conferred on Professor Sergio Henrique Ferreira from University of Sao Paulo, Brazil, and the Prince Mahidol Award 2008 award in the field of public health is jointly awarded to Professor Michiaki Takahashi from Osaka University, Japan and Professor Yu Yongxin from the Chinese National Institute for the Control of Pharmaceutical and Biological Products, announced Voradet Viravakin, chairman of the Sub-Committee on Public Relations of the Prince Mahidol Award Foundation.

According to the award committee, there were a total of 49 nominations from 19 countries contesting the awards in 2008. Thai Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn presided over the meeting of the Board of Trustees on Nov. 3, 2008 in which the final decision on the Prince Mahidol Award 2008 was made.

During the awardees introduction session, Professor Vicharn Panich, chairman of the award committee, explained the decision to select all the three to be this year's awardees.

Professor Ferreira from Brazil discovered the Bradykinin Potentiating Factor(BPF) which is a peptide found in the venom of a Brazilian snake. His discovery paved the way for the development of a new class of antihypertensive drugs, the angiotensin converting enzymes inhibitors (ACEI), the first of which is the drug called captopril. The drug was widely recognized for its antihypertensive efficacy, especially in diabetic patients with inflammatory and kidney diseases. It greatly helped reduce the number of patients who died from congestive heart failure.

Professor Takahashi from Japan developed a vaccine isolated from the vesicles of a typical case of chicken pox in a 3-year-old Japanese boy. Named Oka after the boy, the vaccine was developed to prevent chicken pox in a process which is strictly adhered to the standard of the World Health Organization. The vaccine was widely accepted and used extensively in Japan, South Korea, the United States, France, as well as Thailand. People who receive this vaccine will develop chicken pox with less fever and no scar, and they will recover in a quickly manner.

While Professor Yu from China had spent nearly three decades to derive an SA14-14-2 Japanese encephalitis (JE) vaccine from kidney cells of hamsters. Tested for immunogenicity and efficacy in experimental animals and then human subjects, the vaccine is widely regarded as the most efficacious and safest in preventing encephalitis in children. Since 1988, the vaccine has been distributed to over 200 million children in China and to millions more in India, South Korea, Sri Lanka, Nepal, as well as Thailand. It was proven to greatly help reduce the spread of encephalitis in Asia.

In the past 16 years, 48 individuals, groups of individuals, and institutions have received the Prince Mahidol Award. Among them, two subsequently received the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine.

The Prince Mahidol Award Foundation under the Royal Patronage was established in commemoration of the centenary of the birth of the Prince Mahidol on Jan. 1, 1992. The Foundation is under Royal Patronage, with the Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn as president.

The Foundation annually confers two Prince Mahidol Awards upon individual(s) or institution(s), which have demonstrated outstanding and exemplary contributions to the advancement of the world's medical and public health services. Each Award consists of a medal, a certificate and a sum of 50,000 U.S. dollars.

According to the committee, the awarding ceremony will be held later this year.

(Xinhua News Agency November 21, 2008)

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