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Two U.S. Researchers Win Prestigious International Science Award

Champalimaud Vision Award To Johns Hopkins University Scientists

LISBON, Portugal and NEW YORK, Sept. 9 /PRNewswire/ -- The Champalimaud Foundation, one of the largest global science foundations, today announced the recipients of its 2008 Vision Award. The euro 1 million ($1.4 million) Antonio Champalimaud Vision Award, referred to as the "Nobel Prize for Vision" by the former President of India, A.P.J. Kalam, is the largest monetary prize in the field 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, and may be utilized by each scientist in an unrestricted way to contribute to their research. Drs Nathans and Yau are the first American recipients of the Vision Award.

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

"Taken individually or together, Drs Nathans and Yau's pioneering research represents breakthroughs of historical proportions," said Champalimaud Foundation President, Leonor Beleza. "Their discoveries of the fundamental understanding of the mechanisms of vision open important avenues for research that, when put to clinical application, will contribute significantly to the global quest to eradicate blindness. More than 40 million people worldwide suffer from the intolerable burden of blindness. This is an unacceptable scar on humanity which the Antonio Champalimaud Vision Award was designed to confront."

Dr Nathans' research may have eventual clinical applications in the fight against blindness caused by retinal damage or disease. Contributing to the search for treatments of potentially blinding diseases such as diabetic retinopathy and age-related molecular degeneration are just two examples of ways this award winning research may contribute to the goal of eradicating blindness. Dr. Yau's work may provide a significant step towards uncovering fundamental molecular mechanisms of vision.

About the 2008 Vision Award Recipients

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

About the Antonio Champalimaud Vision Award

The Antonio Champalimaud Vision Award was inaugurated by the Foundation in 2006 at a ceremony presided over by Dr. A.P.J. Kalam, the former President of India, and the Award has the support of the World Health Organization's Vision 2020 -- The Right To Sight initiative. In order to provide maximum support for the fight against blindness, the Award concentrates both on practical blindness 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, beginning in 2008, the Award recognizes outstanding scientific research. In 2007, the Vision Award was given to India's Aravind Eye Care System.

The Jury Panel for this prestigious award is comprised of leading international scientists and renowned public figures. They are: Alfred Sommer, Paul Sieving, Jacques Delors, Amartya Sen, Carla Shatz, Joshua Sanes, Mark Bear, Gullapalli Rao, Jose Cunha-Vaz, Antonio Guterres, and the Nobel Laureate, Susumu Tonegawa.

SOURCE The Champalimaud Foundation
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