Immunologists Marc Feldmann, Charles Dinarello and Tadamitsu Kishimoto have been awarded the Tang Prize in biopharmaceutical science, the head of the selection committee said at a news conference in Taipei yesterday.
The three were recognized for their contributions to the development of cytokine-targeting biological therapies to treat inflammatory diseases, according to the award citation released by the Tang Prize Foundation.
Cytokines are proteins produced by the immune system that transmit messages to cells and are contributors to inflammatory diseases, autoimmune syndromes and cancers.
Feldmann, 75, is an Australian immunologist who has contributed to the development of anti-tumor necrosis factor therapy for rheumatoid arthritis and other autoimmune and inflammatory diseases.
He was the first to demonstrate that diseased joints in people with rheumatoid arthritis have far more pro-inflammatory cytokines than normal, and he identified tumor necrosis factor as the critical cytokine, the foundation said.
Dinarello, a professor of medicine and immunology from the US, is “one of the founding fathers” of cytokine studies, having purified and cloned a protein named interleukin-1 beta (IL-1B), the foundation said.
He laid the groundwork for establishing IL-1B as a potent mediator of fever and inflammatory diseases, which led to the development of therapeutics, the foundation said.
Kishimoto, 76, of Japan discovered and cloned a cytokine that regulates antibody production, later named interleukin-6, and demonstrated its involvement in the pathogenesis of inflammatory diseases, it said.
Successive trials, with Kishimoto’s help, have led to the approval of medicines for autoimmune diseases by regulatory agencies in various countries, it said.
“The pioneering work of doctors Feldmann, Dinarello and Kishimoto is transformative,” the foundation said. “Their research led to the development of biopharmaceuticals that have benefited millions of people suffering from autoimmune and inflammatory diseases.”
The Tang Prize is a two-yearly award established in 2012 by Taiwanese entrepreneur Samuel Yin (尹衍樑) to honor people who have made prominent contributions in four categories — sustainable development, biopharmaceutical science, Sinology and rule of law.
The three winners are to share a cash award of NT$40 million (US$1.35 million) and a NT$10 million research grant, and will receive medals and certificates.
A week-long program revolving around the ceremony is to begin on Sept. 20.
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