Explosives expert and virologist win top science award

Two Chinese scientists, explosives expert Wang Zeshan and virologist Hou Yunde, won China's top science award yesterday for their outstanding contributions.

Chinese President Xi Jinping poses with Wang Zeshan (right) and Hou Yunde (left), winners of China’s top science award, in Beijing.

Two Chinese scientists, explosives expert Wang Zeshan and virologist Hou Yunde, won China’s top science award yesterday for their outstanding contributions to scientific and technological innovation.

President Xi Jinping presented award certificates to them at an annual ceremony held in Beijing to honor distinguished scientists and research achievements.

Yesterday’s ceremony honored 271 projects and nine scientists with national prizes.

Seven foreign scientists won the International Science and Technology Cooperation Awards.

On behalf of the Communist Party of China Central Committee and the State Council, Premier Li Keqiang extended congratulations to the prize winners and thanked foreign experts for their support to China’s science and technology development.

Li called for more scientific and technological research in major disease prevention and control to improve people’s well-being.

He said that more efforts should be made in food safety and pollution control to enable people to live a better life.

The premier called for building China’s strength in science and technology and urged increasing basic scientific research, diversifying investment in research and development, boosting integration of basic and applied sciences and enhancing innovative ability.

Li said China would pursue international cooperation in science and technology and take a more active role in the global innovation network. “We welcome all kinds of talented people to join China’s innovation and entrepreneurship campaign.”

Wang Zeshan is known as China’s Alfred Nobel for his contributions to the study of gunpowder, one of ancient China’s four era-defining inventions (the others being the compass, papermaking and printing).

During 60 years of researching gunpowder, Wang has designed new propellant charging theories and technologies, helping to improve the launch range of China’s artillery by more than 20 percent, lifting the nation’s ballistic performance of similar artillery above international levels.

The dynamite specialist was the first to develop technology for reusing obsolete explosives, turning a potential threat to the environment and security into more than 20 popular military and civilian products both at home and abroad. He has also made breakthroughs in propellant charging technologies with low temperature sensitivity.

Wang, professor with Nanjing University of Science & Technology and an academician of the Chinese Academy of Engineering, was born in 1935 in northeast China’s Jilin Province. Despite his age, he still spends about 12 hours a day working.

Research on flammable explosives is usually conducted in the field under extreme conditions. One month before he won the top national science award yesterday, he visited the country’s desert twice for experiments.

Wang now has a new goal. “The problem of solvent-free manufacturing of smokeless powder has not been solved since it emerged more than 100 years ago. We’re planning to replace the current technology with a new breakthrough,” he said. 

Hou Yunde has dedicated himself to antiviral research.

Hou, born in 1929 in east China’s Jiangsu Province, is an academician of the Chinese Academy of Engineering and also a researcher of the National Institute for Viral Disease Control and Prevention with the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention.

From 1958 to 1962, he went to the Soviet Union to study medical science. During those years, he published 17 academic papers and earned a PhD in medical sciences from the higher education ministry of the Soviet Union for his academic excellence.

In the early 1990s, Hou started China’s first genetic engineering drug company. As one of China’s top scientists in biotechnology, Hou’s teams have developed recombinant human interferon, alpha 1b, which has been key in new drug research and development and the industrialization of China’s genetic engineering project.

Interferons are a group of signaling proteins that act as antiviral agents. In the 1980s, China depended entirely on imported interferons, but now the majority of interferons in China can be produced domestically.

“Alpha 1b has few side effects and will not cause high fevers,” said Hou. “I expect that it will replace similar foreign products in the international market in the future.”

Due to the efforts by Hou and other medical workers, China has set up an infectious disease detection system, effective within 72 hours, that can identify about 300 known pathogens and test unknown pathogens, including the H1N1 influenza virus, the H7N9 bird flu virus, Ebola virus, and the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) virus.

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