Awards honor for Shanghai scientists

Li Qian
City-based researchers win major awards for their outstanding work over the past year from the influential Ho Leung Ho Lee Foundation.
Li Qian

Eight scientists from Shanghai have won awards at a nationwide science awards event.

On Monday, the Hong Kong-based Ho Leung Ho Lee Foundation, the most influential non-governmental awards in science and technology in China, honored 56 Chinese scientists for their contributions to research over the past year.

Wu Weiren, chief designer of China's lunar exploration program, received the Achievement Award, the foundation's top prize.

Among the Shanghai winners of the foundation’s Progress and Innovation awards were 31-year-old Liu Zhen and 34-year-old Yang Hui, both researchers from the Chinese Academy of Sciences Institute of Neuroscience.

Liu, who became the foundation’s youngest winner, is a true “Made in China” scientist, without any overseas background.

He led research into the first cloned monkeys “Zhongzhong” and “Huahua,” refreshing the technical possibility of human cloning. He also managed to create monkeys displaying autistic traits using gene-editing technologies, providing a model for research into the condition.

Yang built his own lab in 2014 and has published 12 articles in renowned scientific journals such as “Science” and “Nature.”

He led research into a safer and more precise gene-editing tool that is expected to shorten the experiment time needed for clinical trials. His research team developed a “generic scissor” called ABE (F148A) which can cut genes with greater precision and avoid affecting RNA.

The tool is expected to be used in the treatment of severe rare diseases such as thalassemia, macular degeneration and hereditary deafness.

Three of the six scientists awarded for their contributions in bio-medicine and life sciences were from Shanghai.

Geng Meiyu, from the Shanghai Institute of Materia Medica, has been dedicated to the development of GV-971 since 1997.

The seaweed-based drug can improve cognitive ability in people suffering from mild-to-moderate Alzheimer’s by regulating bacteria in the gut. Earlier this month, the National Medical Products Administration approved sales of the drug, the first drug for Alzheimer’s treatment to be approved in 17 years.

Fan Xianqun, Party Secretary from Shanghai Jiao Tong University School of Medicine, developed key technologies in eye socket surgery. Liu Zhongmin, president of Shanghai East Hospital, was awarded the 2018 State Science and Technology Awards for producing China’s first comic books that instruct the public on safety precautions and escape measures in 15 disaster scenarios, including mudslides, earthquakes and fire.

The other three award-winning Shanghai scientists were biochemist Fan Chunhai, CEO of leading medical device maker Chang Zhaohua, and materials science expert Wang Huaping.

The Ho Leung Ho Lee Foundation was established by Hong Kong financiers in 1994 to honour outstanding Chinese scientists. So far, it has presented awards to 1,362 Chinese scientists, 154 of them from Shanghai, including physicist Qian Weichang, mathematician Su Buqing and academician Yan Dongsheng.

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