Her Royal Highness Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn, as the Representative of His Majesty the King, presided over the Prince Mahidol Award 2017 at the Chakri Throne Hall on 31 January 2018, at 17.30 hours. Her Royal Highness Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn also presided over the dinner given in honour of the laureates at the Boromrajasathitmaholarn Hall at 19.30 hours.
This year, there were a total of 45 nominations from 27 countries. The Scientific Advisory Committee carefully screened all candidates and subsequently submitted a short list of the candidates to the Board of Trustees. Her Royal Highness Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn presided over the meeting of the Board of Trustees held on 2 November 2017 during which the final decision on the Prince Mahidol Award 2017 was made.
This year, the Prince Mahidol Award in the field of Medicine is awarded to the Human Genome Project.
The Human Genome Project (HGP) was a large research project that significantly advanced knowledge in genetics and the human genome. The main mission of the HGP was to decipher human genetic codes. These codes are the core elements that determine biological life. The HGP thus contributed to the better understanding of cellular and organ functions, mutation processes and the mechanisms of diseases. Knowledge of the human genome, including technology used to analyze and interpret genetic codes, facilitated the evolution of medicine in many aspects, from understanding rare hereditary diseases to common illnesses (e.g. cancers, infectious diseases). Screenings for at risk patients and early detection are critical in the control and prevention of the aggravation of diseases. In addition, knowing personal genetic information helps improve drug development that can be tailored to individual patients, so called precision medicine, for highly efficient treatment. The information provided by the HGP has helped make significant progress in medical science, a branch of science essential to the comprehension of how diseases occur. It has changed the medical paradigm, shifting focus on diagnosis and treatment to the investigation of the causes and identification of the related genetic risks of diseases. The HGP has contributed to the remarkable advancement of medicine to the enormous benefit of mankind.
The Prince Mahidol Award in the field of Public Health is awarded to Professor Porter W. Anderson, Jr., Dr. John B. Robbins, Dr. Rachel Schneerson and Professor Mathuram Santosham from the United States of America.
Professor Anderson, Dr. Robbins and Dr. Schneerson developed the Haemophilus influenzae type b – Hib. Hib is one of the core causes of meningitis, particularly in children. The research teams were the first to introduce the polysaccharide vaccine. It was, however, shown that this vaccine was not effective among children younger than 18 months old, the group at most risk of contracting the disease. They then developed the Hib vaccine, from research in polysaccharides to conjugate vaccines which is now being used as a standard for vaccination. The Award also recognizes Professor Santosham as a leader of the Hib Initiative who elevated his scientific discovery into a widely used vaccine among children, especially in many developing countries.
The Prince Mahidol Award Foundation under the Royal Patronage was established in commemoration of the centenary of the birth of His Royal Highness Prince Mahidol of Songkla, on 1 January 1992. The Foundation is under the Royal Patronage, with Her Royal Highness Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn as President. The Foundation annually confers two Prince Mahidol Awards upon individual(s) or institution(s), which have demonstrated outstanding and exemplary contributions to the advancement of the world’s medical and public health services. Each Award consists of a medal, a certificate, and a sum of US $100,000.
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