TANG PRIZE/2020 Tang Prize Laureates honored at virtual awards ceremony

Eight 2020 Tang Prize laureates from around the world officially received their awards at a virtual ceremony Saturday in recognition of their significant contributions in the fields of primatology, immunology, sinology and law.

The awards ceremony took place in Taipei on Saturday afternoon after a one-year postponement due to COVID-19, with eight individuals and groups receiving the awards and delivering their acceptance speeches virtually from seven different countries, according to the organizer, the Tang Prize Foundation.

They included British primatologist Jane Goodall, who was awarded the prize in sustainable development for her ground-breaking discovery in primatology that redefines the relationship between humans and animals, the foundation said.

In her acceptance speech, Goodall thanked the foundation for the award, which she believes will enable her and the Jane Goodall Institute to "do so much more."

"We face many problems today. We face climate change, we face loss of biodiversity, and of course, we're still struggling to contain this pandemic," she said, referring to COVID-19, which has claimed 5.14 million lives globally since the first outbreak in China in December 2019.

The prize will "help us make this a better world for people, for animals, and for the environment that we all share," she added.

Meanwhile, immunologists Charles Dinarello, Tadamitsu Kishimoto and Marc Feldmann shared the biopharmaceutical science award for their decades-long research of pro-inflammatory proteins.

"In accepting the Tang Prize I have to acknowledge the contributions of so many scientists, whose pathways have led to therapeutic innovations," Dinarello said in his acceptance speech.

The 78-year-old professor also encouraged young scientists to be committed to their research. "Never think that there are no discoveries left for you to make...as long as we have ethical considerations and caution, science has no boundaries."

Speaking from Japan, Kishimoto, 82, expressed his appreciation for the prize. "It is indeed my great honor to be awarded this prestigious 2020 Tang Prize in the biopharmaceutical science field."

"I am very glad that our very basic study through almost half a century came in useful to medicine and saved many patients in the world," Kishimoto said of the research that led him to develop Actemra, a rheumatoid arthritis drug that is now also being used in COVID-19 treatment under emergency use authorization.

Similarly, Feldmann, who is currently in the U.K., said it was a pleasure to share the award with two other long-term friends and competitors.

"The discoveries made by the three of us are being tested in COVID patients," he said. "That discoveries made for other diseases can help a new disease like COVID testifies to the importance of research."

In addition, the 2020 Tang Prize in sinology went to Wang Gungwu (???), an Indonesian-born Singaporean historian, for his six-decades studying China as well as Sino-Southeast Asian relations.

Commenting on the development of sinology, Wang said the way the field had been enriched in the past decades is truly remarkable, but "it is a story that is yet to be fully appreciated."

"I hope that the award of the Tang Prize will draw wider attention to the value of Sinic civilization to the betterment of the human condition," the 91-year-old added.

The foundation also presented the Tang Prize in Rule of Law to three non-governmental organizations, including the Bangladesh Environmental Lawyers Association, Colombia-based Dejusticia: The Center for Law, Justice and Society, and The Legal Agenda headquartered in Lebanon.

"These organizations have shown remarkable resilience in promoting greater individual, social and environmental justice in places where the foundations of the rule of law are under severe challenge," said Yeh Jiunn-rong (???), who chairs the Tang Prize Selection Committee for Rule of Law, during an introductory speech.

They "bring about social changes by utilizing legal means, in particular strategic litigation, in fighting for the rights and well-being of people in individual cases as well as instigating judiciary rulings that forge enduring changes, added Yeh, who is also Taiwan's former education minister.

Founded in 2012 in Taiwan, the Tang Prize is a biennial award intended to gather and recognize "the wisdom mankind needs to tackle the crises unique to the 21st century," according to the foundation.

Winners of each award take home a cash prize of up to NT$40 million (US$1.42 million) and an additional research grant of up to NT$10 million, the foundation said.

Source: Focus Taiwan News Channel