AsianScientist (Jul. 2, 2020) – Professor Tadamitsu Kishimoto of Osaka University, Japan, has been awarded the 2020 Tang Prize in Biopharmaceutical Science, alongside Charles Dinarello of the University of Colorado, Denver, and Marc Feldmann at Oxford University, UK. The three immunologists were recognized for their role in discovering three immune regulators, namely interleukin-6 (IL-6), interleukin-1 (IL-1) and tumor necrosis factor (TNF), respectively.
Cytokines are analogous the the body’s intruder alarm system. When an infectious agent breaks into the body, the cytokine alarms are triggered to activate the immune cell ‘security guards.’ However, just as alarms can sometimes malfunction, cytokines can also go into overdrive and overstimulate the immune system, evoking a harmful inflammatory response known as a cytokine storm.
In particular, IL-6 is a multifunctional cytokine that can cross the blood-brain barrier and is an important mediator of fever. Kishimoto not only identified and cloned both IL-6 and its receptor, but also successfully developed an antibody that can inhibit the IL-6 receptor to modulate the immune response, taking basic research all the way through to clinical application.
The anti-IL-6 receptor antibody Kishimoto developed has benefited individuals with autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis. The antibody has also shown promise as a therapy that could treat COVID-19-induced cytokine storms, which are linked to severe pneumonia.
The Tang Prize is awarded biennially to recognize achievements across four major fields, sustainable development, biopharmaceutical science, sinology and rule of law. Global in reach, laureates are selected on the basis of the originality of their work along with their contributions to society, irrespective of their nationality or ethnicity. The winner of each category will receive a cash prize of NT$40 million (~US$1.33 million) as well as a research grant of NT$10 million (~US$0.33 million).
The 2020 Tang Prize in Sustainable Development was awarded to Dr. Jane Goodall for her ground-breaking research in primatology that redefined human-animal relationship and for her lifelong unparalleled dedication to conservation of the environment. Renowned historian Wang Gungwu won the prize in Sinology for his trailblazing insights on the history of the Chinese world order, Chinese overseas and Chinese migratory experience.
Last but not least, three non-governmental organization—Bangladesh Environmental Lawyers Association, Dejusticia: The Center for Law, Justice and Society, and The Legal Agenda—were named joint winners of the prize in Rule of Law for their efforts in furthering the rule of law and its institutions through education and advocacy.
Source: Tang Prize.
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