Japan awards medical prize to Kenyan, Briton


Fri, May 30, 2008 - Page 5

Japan has awarded a lucrative new medical prize for Africa to a Kenyan who has fought to stem HIV infections and a Briton whose research is credited with stemming malaria on the continent.

Emperor Akihito presented the new Hideo Noguchi Prize, which comes with ¥100 million (US$1 million) for each recipient, at a summit attended by 40 African heads of state in Yokohama, near Tokyo.

The prize, named after a renowned Japanese bacteriologist, was given to Miriam Were, who heads Kenya’s National AIDS Control Council, and Brian Greenwood, a professor at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.

Under Were’s leadership, new HIV infections in Kenya dropped by more than half between 2000 and 2006, a prize statement said.

Were, accepting the award on Wednesday evening, said that through the prize, “Japan communicates positive perceptions of Africa.”

“The nature of the focus of the existing prizes in medicine more or less rule out those working in Africa from getting these awards,” said Were, who is also a novelist.

Greenwood, a Manchester native, has conducted research on fighting disease in western Africa, including in Nigeria amid the civil war in the late 1960s.

He conducted the first clinical tests that showed how to reduce malaria deaths among children by setting up mosquito nets treated with insecticide.

Greenwood heads the Gates Malaria Partnership, funded by the Microsoft chairman’s Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, which has set up research laboratories in Africa to train scientists.

When announcing the Hideyo Noguchi award in 2006, Japan’s then prime minister Junichiro Koizumi voiced hope it could one day be as respected as the Nobel Prize.

Noguchi is best known for discovering the agent of syphilis — and for appearing on Japan’s ¥1,000 note.