Two U.S. Researchers Win Prestigious International Science Award

Wednesday, September 10, 2008 General News
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LISBON, Portugal and NEW YORK, Sept. 9 The ChampalimaudFoundation, one of the largest global science foundations, today announced therecipients of its 2008 Vision Award. The euro 1 million ($1.4 million) AntonioChampalimaud Vision Award, referred to as the "Nobel Prize for Vision" by theformer President of India, A.P.J. Kalam, is the largest monetary prize in thefield of vision and one of the largest scientific prizes in the world.

The recipients of the 2008 Vision Award are Dr. Jeremy Nathans and Dr.King-Wai Yau, both faculty members at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore,MD. The euro 1 million prize will be divided between Drs Nathans and Yau, andmay be utilized by each scientist in an unrestricted way to contribute totheir research. Drs Nathans and Yau are the first American recipients of theVision Award.

The 2008 Antonio Champalimaud Vision Award recognizes Dr. Nathans' andYau's fundamental discoveries related to the first step in seeing: theconversion of light into electrical signals that the brain uses to createvision. Jeremy Nathans determined the genetic code of the human visualpigments, helping to understand how they function and discovering howmutations in their sequence can lead to some retinal diseases. King-Wai Yaushowed how the absorption of light by these pigments generates the electricalsignals that initiate vision and regulate our natural rhythms. Thesediscoveries are basic to the current understanding of vision.

"Taken individually or together, Drs Nathans and Yau's pioneering researchrepresents breakthroughs of historical proportions," said ChampalimaudFoundation President, Leonor Beleza. "Their discoveries of the fundamentalunderstanding of the mechanisms of vision open important avenues for researchthat, when put to clinical application, will contribute significantly to theglobal quest to eradicate blindness. More than 40 million people worldwidesuffer from the intolerable burden of blindness. This is an unacceptable scaron humanity which the Antonio Champalimaud Vision Award was designed toconfront."

Dr Nathans' research may have eventual clinical applications in the fightagainst blindness caused by retinal damage or disease. Contributing to thesearch for treatments of potentially blinding diseases such as diabeticretinopathy and age-related molecular degeneration are just two examples ofways this award winning research may contribute to the goal of eradicatingblindness. Dr. Yau's work may provide a significant step towards uncoveringfundamental molecular mechanisms of vision.

About the 2008 Vision Award Recipients

Based in the Soloman H. Snyder Department of Neuroscience, Dr. King-WaiYau is a Professor of Neuroscience at Johns Hopkins University. During adistinguished career, which began at Stanford University, Dr. Yau has beenhonored with numerous prizes and awards for his outstanding vision research.Dr. Jeremy Nathans is Professor of Molecular Biology and Genetics at JohnsHopkins University School of Medicine. His principal research interest is themolecular biology of vision and his work has been recognized by a number ofhigh-profile awards including the Golden Brain Award and the Initiatives inVision Award from the National Academy of Sciences, USA.

About the Antonio Champalimaud Vision Award

The Antonio Champalimaud Vision Award was inaugurated by the Foundation in2006 at a ceremony presided over by Dr. A.P.J. Kalam, the former President ofIndia, and the Award has the support of the World Health Organization's Vision2020 -- The Right To Sight initiative. In order to provide maximum support forthe fight against blindness, the Award concentrates both on practicalblindness prevention and on scientific research. In odd numbered years,starting in 2007, the Award is given for blindness prevention on the ground,particularly in developing countries. In even numbered years, be

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