Prince Mahidol award 2023 goes to two American scientists

Her Royal Highness Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn yesterday awarded the Prince Mahidol Award for 2023 to two American scientists, Professor Dr Napoleone Ferrara, a medical researcher, and Professor Dr Barry H Rumack, a public health expert. The award is a global recognition of their scientific contributions that have significantly advanced medical treatments.

The ceremony took place at the Chakri Maha Prasat Throne Hall, Grand Palace. Dr Ferrara and Dr Rumack were among 92 nominees from 31 countries, who were being considered for this prestigious award.

Dr Ferrara’s noteworthy achievement is the discovery of the Vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF), and specifically, the identification and purification of VEGF as a powerful mitogen for vascular endothelial cells. The fruits of his research include the development of the anti-VEGF antibody, Bevacizumab, a key drug in treating highly vascularised and aggressive cancers.

His contributions also extend to the development of the anti-VEGF Fab fragment known as Astana Ranibizumab. This scientific innovation has significantly improved the quality of life of many Age-Related Macular Degeneration (AMD) patients, particularly in societies with an ageing population. The therapy’s impact is global, with anti-VEGF drugs now being used worldwide, benefiting millions of patients.

Expressing his gratitude for the recognition, Dr Ferrara voiced his hope that his research would inspire further exploration and improvements in medical treatments.

On receiving the award, Dr Barry H Rumack described it as a tremendous honour and a source of motivation for those working in the fields of medicine and public health to continue their contributions to health development.

Medicinal Needs

Dr Rumack’s research interests lie in addressing malnutrition, a problem affecting over 728 million people worldwide. He underlined the importance of acknowledging individual variations in nutritional and medicinal needs, highlighting the issue as a major concern not only in southern Africa but also in the United States.

His work also extends to studying the pharmacologic and toxicologic characteristics of common drugs. For instance, he has explored paracetamol toxicity, which accounts for 40-70% of acute liver failure cases globally. His research on the effectiveness of N-acetylcysteine as an antidote has resulted in a treatment protocol that has become the worldwide standard for managing paracetamol toxicity. This has led to a drastic reduction in liver failure cases from 54% to nearly zero.

Additionally, Dr Rumack pioneered the use of Poisindex, a poison information database, ushering in the digital age for poison centres and hospitals globally. His continuing work with paracetamol toxicity has led to more refined and individualised patient management.

The Prince Mahidol Award Foundation under Royal Patronage was established on January 1, 1992. The foundation annually confers two Prince Mahidol Awards upon individuals or institutes that have made outstanding and exemplary contributions to advancing the world’s medical and public health services.

The laureates receive a medal, a certificate and US$100,000 (3.6 million baht). Over the past 31 years, the award has been conferred on 94 individuals and institutions, including four Thai nationals and six Nobel Prize laureates, reported Bangkok Post.

Thailand News

Mitch Connor

Mitch is a Bangkok resident, having relocated from Southern California, via Florida in 2022. He studied journalism before dropping out of college to teach English in South America. After returning to the US, he spent 4 years working for various online publishers before moving to Thailand.

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