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3 scientists win Japan Prize in river engineering, gene therapy

TOKYO, Jan. 29 — Three scientists have been selected as winners of the Japan Prize in the fields of river engineering and gene therapy, the Japan Prize Foundation said on Thursday.

Yutaka Takahasi of Japan won the Japan Prize in the field of "Resources, Energy and Social Infrastructure" for his contribution to "development of innovative concept on river basin management and reduction of water-related disasters," the prize citation said.

Theodore Friedmann of the United States and Alain Fischer of France were recognized in the field of "Medical Science and Medicinal Science" for their "proposal of the concept of gene therapy and its clinical applications."

Takahasi, born in 1927, a professor of the University of Tokyo, urged in the 1970s a drastic change in water control policies that were focused on physical infrastructure such as banks.

He proposed an integrated flood management approach that includes river as well as environment and human communities in river basins. His concept laid the foundation for the 1997 amendment to Japan's River Act, which is still known as one of the most advanced river-related legislations in the world.

Friedmann, 79, a professor of pediatrics at the University of California San Diego, School of Medicine, proposed the concept of gene therapy in the 1970s and pioneered the early phase of basic research in the field. Regarded internationally as the "father of gene therapy," he has also been at the vanguard of ethical issues surrounding this field as an opinion leader for the past 40 years.

Alain Fischer, 65, director of Institut Imagine in Paris, a leading research institute on genetic diseases, and professor at Collge de France, used hematopoietic stem cell gene therapy to treat children with a fatal genetic disorder called X-linked severe combined immunodeficiency. He has clinically demonstrated efficacy of gene therapy with dramatic effectiveness for the first time in the world, realizing what was once thought to be a miracle cure.

The Foundation will host an award ceremony to honor the laureates of the 2015 Japan Prize on April 23 in Tokyo. Each of them will receive a certificate of recognition and a commemorative gold medal. A cash award of 50 million Japanese yen (about US$ 420,000) will also be given to each prize field.

Since 1985, the Japan Prize Foundation has awarded 83 people from 13 countries. Endorsed by the Japanese government, the Japan Prize is awarded annually to scientists and researchers who, regardless of nationality, made substantial contributions to their fields and advancement of science and technology as well as serving the cause of peace and prosperity of mankind. (PNA/Xinhua)


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