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mRNA vaccine researchers get $3 mln VinFuture grand prize

By Staff reporters   January 20, 2022 | 07:27 am PT
An international award founded in Vietnam to honor scientific achievements gave out $4.5 million worth of prizes to several global scientists Thursday night.

The annual VinFuture Prize, instituted by the VinFuture Foundation, was launched by Vingroup chairman Pham Nhat Vuong and his wife Pham Thu Huong.

The award aims to recognize ground breaking scientific and technological discoveries around the world.

On Thursday, four prizes were awarded at a ceremony at Hanoi Opera House: a VinFuture Grand Prize valued at $3 million and three special prizes of $500,000 each for female innovators, innovators from developing countries, and innovators with outstanding achievements in emerging fields.

Three scientists: Hungarian biochemist Katalin Kariko, U.S. physician-scientist Drew Weissman and Canadian physicist and biochemist Pieter Rutter Cullis were awarded the VinFuture Grand Prize valued at $3 million for their contributions to the development of the mRNA vaccine technology.

(From L) Scientists Pieter Rutter Cullis, Drew Weissman, and Katalin Kariko receive the VinFuture Grand Prize for contributions to the development of the mRNA vaccine technology, Hanoi, January 20, 2022. Photo by VnExpress/Giang Huy

(From L) Scientists Pieter Rutter Cullis, Drew Weissman, and Katalin Kariko receive the VinFuture Grand Prize for contributions to the development of the mRNA vaccine technology, Hanoi, January 20, 2022. Photo by VnExpress/Giang Huy

"This award is a highlight for sci-tech and for international cooperation," said Kariko, adding that she was glad to be in Vietnam.

"I want to witness mRNA therapies save the lives of so many people suffering from diseases," she said.

Weissman said the prize would open up new opportunities for new generations of vaccines, adding that he hoped the prize would be the beginning of cooperation between Southeast Asian countries, including Vietnam.

"The important thing is not the fact that I was awarded the prize, but the fact that thousands of scientists before me and thousands after me would continue to approach new ways to cure diseases," he said.

Cullis meanwhile highlighted the importance of fundamental studies as they would promote innovation and decide the trajectory of future research.

South African scientists Salim Abdool Karim and Quarraisha Abdool Karim were awarded a VinFuture Prize valued at $500,000 for developing country innovators for the invention of a gel with tenofovir, a product for women to prevent HIV infections.

U.S. scientist Zhenan Bao was awarded with a VinFuture Prize for her research on "electronic skins" capable of stretching, healing like normal skins and are biodegradable.

U.S. scientist Omar M.Yaghi was awarded a VinFuture Prize for his research into water and material science.

 
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