US Human Genome Project and influenza researchers win Prince Mahidol Award for 2017

The US Human Genome Project and four researchers from the United States have been named Prince Mahidol awardees for 2017.

The Prince Mahidol Award Foundation under the Royal Patronage held a joint press conference at Siriraj Hospital, Bangkok, yesterday (Nov 16) to announce the 26th Prince Mahidol Laureates for 2017 in the field of Medicine and Public Health.

1.Prince Mahidol Award in the field of Medicine

This year, the Prince Mahidol Award in the field of Medicine is awarded to the Human Genome Project from the United States of America.

The Human Genome Project (HGP) was the international, collaborative research program whose goal was the complete mapping and understanding of all the genes of human beings. The full sequence was completed and published in April 2003.

According to the foundation, the HGP was a large research project that significantly advanced knowledge in genetics and the human genome. The main mission of the HGP was to decipher human genetic codes. These codes are the core elements that determine biological life.

The HGP thus contributed to the better understanding of cellular and organ functions, mutation processes and the mechanisms of diseases. Knowledge of the human genome, including technology used to analyze and interpret genetic codes, facilitated the evolution of medicine in many aspects, from understanding rare hereditary diseases to common illnesses (e.g. cancers, infectious diseases).

Screenings for at risk patients and early detection are critical in the control and prevention of the aggravation of diseases.

“In addition, knowing personal genetic information helps improve drug development that can be tailored to individual patients,so called precision medicine, for highly efficient treatment. The information provided by the HGP has helped make significant progress in medical science,a branch of science essential to the comprehension of how diseases occur. It has changed the medical paradigm, shifting focus on diagnosis and treatment to the investigation of the causes and identification of the related genetic risks of diseases.

“The HGP has contributed to the remarkable advancement of medicine to the enormous benefit of mankind,” the foundation said in the statement.

2.The Prince Mahidol Award in the field of Public Health

Professor Porter W. Anderson, Jr., Dr. John B. Robbins, Dr. Rachel Schneerson and Professor Mathuram Santosham from the United States of America are the winners of this year’s award.

Professor Anderson, Dr. Robbins and Dr. Schneerson in developing the Haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib).

Hib is one of the core causes of meningitis, particularly in children. The research teams were the first to introduce the polysaccharide vaccine.  It was, however, shown that this vaccine was not effective among children younger than 18 months old, the group at most risk of contracting the disease.

They then developed the Hib vaccine, from research in polysaccharides to conjugate vaccines which is now being used as a standard for vaccination.

The Award also recognizes Professor Santosham as a leader of the Hib Initiative who elevated his scientific discovery into a widely used vaccine among children, especially in many developing countries.

Her Royal Highness Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn, the President of the foundation, will preside over the Presentation Ceremony of the Prince Mahidol Award 2017 on 31 January 2018 at Chakri Maha Prasat Throne Hall, Bangkok.

The Prince Mahidol Award Foundation under the Royal Patronage was established in commemoration of the centenary of the birth of His Royal Highness Prince Mahidol of Songkla, on 1 January 1992.

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 US $100,000.