Multiple awards given for COVID-19 breakthroughs

Li Qian
Announced today, the 2020 Shanghai Science and Technology Awards honor 281 scientific breakthroughs and distinguished researchers.
Li Qian
Multiple awards given for COVID-19 breakthroughs
Ti Gong

Professor Ma Lizhuang (second from left) and his team have contributed to the country's first health QR code.

The role of science and technology as an effective weapon against COVID-19 has been highlighted by Shanghai's top awards for scientific and technological achievements.

Announced today, the 2020 Shanghai Science and Technology Awards honor 281 scientific breakthroughs and distinguished researchers.

The awards highlight excellence in fundamental research in fields such as life science, new materials and information science, which, to some extent, aligns with the city's core industries.

Of all the winning projects, achievements in fundamental research are on the rise, increasing from 9.7 percent in 2018 to 17.1 percent in 2020, demonstrating the city's drive to become a global innovation center.

Seventeen projects were awarded with special or first prizes, accounting for 20 percent of the total. They include the discovery of two-dimensional material black phosphorus that blazes a trail in the semiconductor industry, and the intensive study of G-protein coupled receptors, or GPCR, which helps locate targeted molecules and facilitates precision drug design.

The 2020 awards also highlight contributions to the fight against COVID-19.

A panel of experts was assembled to assess the 108 applications that run the gamut of pandemic prevention and control – from medicine and medical instruments to rapid diagnosis and systematic pandemic containment measures. Nineteen of them were awarded.

Sixteen projects were concerted efforts by hospitals, universities, companies and research institutions. Working in tandem with academia and business has become a rising trend in the scientific community, according to the Shanghai Science and Technology Awards Center.

Multiple awards given for COVID-19 breakthroughs
Hu Jun / SHINE

Anti-virus luminary Zhang Wenhong shares experiences with experts.

One winning project, led by anti-virus luminary Zhang Wenhong, pioneered research on coronavirus treatment thanks to consensus on cooperating in the anti-virus fight.

The city's infectious diseases experts completed full gene sequencing of the first locally transmitted case, shared their latest findings with virologists to better understand the pathogen and worked with pharmaceutical companies to conduct research on a COVID-19 vaccine.

They also partnered with medical workers sent to Wuhan to find coronavirus treatment protocols, with a success rate of nearly 99 percent.

For another winning project, researchers from Shanghai's Ruijin Hospital and Wuhan's Jinyintan Hospital, which stood on the forefront of the anti-virus fight, created a pulmonary infection guide based on numerous local cases.

The guide illustrates the clinical features of the coronavirus-related pneumonia, identifies key factors in the early stages of severe cases and highlights glucocorticoid as an effective treatment for patients.

Related research has been published in the world's top medical journals, including The Lancet, European Respiratory Journal and American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine.

In addition, eight projects involved artificial intelligence, which, according to the center, indicates a bigger role for advanced technologies in the medical field.

Multiple awards given for COVID-19 breakthroughs
Ti Gong

A researcher from Ma Lizhuang's team adjusts equipment.

Notably, one of the two winners of this year's special awards exemplifies the application of computer vision in coronavirus pandemic prevention and control. The other involves an automated container terminal at Yangshan Deep-Water Port.

The research led by Ma Lizhuang, a distinguished professor from Shanghai Jiao Tong University, aims to improve a computer's ability to recognize human faces in complex scenarios.

It has contributed to the country's first health QR code, used by 1 billion people in more than 100 cities. It has also helped police locate 1,706 missing or abducted people, and rescue 15 children who had been missing for more than 10 years, based only on fuzzy pictures taken when they were babies.

"Our research is particularly important in the development of AI," Ma said. "It will accelerate the development of service robots, AI-embedded virtual reality and augmented reality, and turn them into emerging businesses with an industrial scale of a trillion yuan. Our research also promotes Shanghai's construction of a smart city."

While some medical workers were working on the front line, some found it equally important to spread coronavirus knowledge to the public at large.

Researchers from the Shanghai University of Traditional Chinese Medicine and several local hospitals were awarded for the publication of a handbook highlighting the combination of TCM and Western medicine in China's prevention and control of the coronavirus-related pneumonia.

The handbook has raised awareness of TCM's role in the fight against COVID-19, and several approaches have been accepted by the World Health Organization.

Multiple awards given for COVID-19 breakthroughs
Ti Gong

 Yangshan Deep-Water Port

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