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Taiwanese scientist wins Nikkei Asia Prize

TOKYO, May 25 — Academia Sinica President Chi-Huey Wong, a world leader in carbohydrate chemistry, was awarded the Nikkei Asia Prize on Wednesday for his research in glycochemistry, which will help with the development of new vaccinations and medication against various diseases, including cancer.

Wong won in the science, technology and innovation category of the prize, which was established by Nikkei Inc., a leading Japanese media group specializing in business news. The award carries a prize of US$ 37,565.

The 63-year-old, who has been studying glycochemistry for over 30 years, was honored for his discovery of new ways to synthesize glycoproteins and complex carbohydrates that will have applications in biology and medicine.

Wong said he discovered that carbohydrate molecules on the surface of cells are associated with various diseases, particularly cancer, infectious diseases and immune disorders.

He said knowledge of the differences between the molecules in healthy and diseased conditions can help develop new vaccinations and medication against these diseases.

One cancer vaccine, developed using the synthesizing technique developed by his research team, is currently in the final stages of clinical trials in the United States, South Korea, Hong Kong and Singapore, Wong said.

The vaccine will be first used to treat breast cancer and later applied to eight different types of cancer, Wong said at the award ceremony in Tokyo.

Wong was the sixth Taiwanese to win the Nikkei Asia Prize.

"It`s comforting to know that Taiwan`s technology-related research has won recognition, but researchers still have to think harder about how their work will contribute to society or the economy," he said.

Wong has received the International Carbohydrate award, the American Chemical Society Claude S. Hudson Award, among others, and was elected to the U.S. National Academy of Sciences in 2002.

Tomoya Ogawa, an internationally recognized leader in the field of chemical synthesis of oligosaccharides and glycoconjugates, lauded Wong`s achievement as one of the best in the world.

"Wong has won many awards. I`m afraid the only award that Wong has not received is the Nobel Prize," said the director of the Wako Institute at RIKEN, a large natural sciences research institute in Japan.

The Nikkei Asia Prize, which honors non-Japanese Asians who have contributed to enhancing the welfare of the people in the region, has two other categories–regional growth and culture.

The winner of the first category this year was Yang Yong of China for his work on the country`s ecosystems and environmental conservation, while Sri Lankan Sybil Wettasinghe won in the second category for her children's books on the country`s cultural diversity and natural beauty. (PNA/Antara) scs/LOR/ebp

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