President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) yesterday awarded the Presidential Science Prize to three Academia Sinica academicians, who warned about a lack of research talent and expressed hope that medical research will improve in Taiwan.
One of the winners, Lee Yuan-pern (李遠鵬), is renowned for his research using free radical spectroscopy, a tool for studying the effect of global warming and air pollution, said Academia Sinica President James Liao (廖俊智), chairman of the prize’s steering committee.
The falling number of students pursuing doctoral degrees should be regarded as a serious social problem, as a shortage of researchers would affect the nation’s global competitiveness, Lee said.
Photo: Chien Hui-ju, Taipei Times
The government should encourage young people to be involved in basic science research and urge academics to work together on advanced research projects, instead of working alone, he said.
Lee is a younger brother of chemistry Nobel laureate Lee Yuan-tseh (李遠哲), who also attended yesterday’s ceremony.
Prize winner Chen Yuan-tsong (陳垣崇) — a former director of Academia Sinica’s Institute of Biomedical Sciences — is known for developing treatments for glycogen storage disease and Pompe disease, Liao said.
Chen has made significant contributions to Taiwan’s biomedicine industry, and the story of how he developed a drug for Pompe disease was adapted in the 2010 film Extraordinary Measures, Tsai said.
Chen was wronged, Tsai said, referring to accusations of trying to profiteer from a biotech company established by his family.
The Shilin District Prosecutors’ Office in 2011 declared Chen could not be charged.
Asked about his expectations regarding biomedical development in Taiwan, Chen said he is lucky to have succeeded in developing new drugs when the success rate is estimated to be one in 5,000.
While Taiwan has established quality medical services, it should move on to develop preventive and precision medicine, he added.
The other winner, Wei Fu-chan (魏福全), was the nation’s first research surgeon named an Academia Sinica academician in 2012.
Surgeons are finally recognized for their basic and clinical research abilities, instead of merely their surgery techniques, Wei said.
A world leader in microsurgery, Wei has performed many difficult surgeries on cancer patients or physically impaired people, Liao said.
Apart from promoting universal healthcare, Taiwan should make a concerted effort to bolster potentially promising areas to claim a leading role in global medicine, Wei said, adding that surgery and precision medicine could be highlighted.
Established in 2001, the nation’s most prestigious scientific research award is presented once every two years at the Presidential Office in Taipei.
Winners receive NT$2 million (US$65,527) each.
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