AsianScientist (Oct. 6, 2021) – Five from Asia are among the most influential and highly cited researchers in the world. These scientists were recognized as Citation Laureates by Clarivate in an online announcement last September 22, 2021.
More than just acknowledging sources, citations show how knowledge is shaped, shared and synthesized. As new discoveries emerge, some studies become cornerstones in their fields, cited over and over again as a testament to their foundational role in driving further research.
While not the sole metric for gauging impact, accumulating 2000 or more citations is no small feat. Of the over 50 million research articles indexed in the Web of Science, only about 0.1 percent of them have reached this milestone. The Citation Laureates are curated from this premier group of researchers, who accelerate scientific discovery in physiology or medicine, chemistry, physics and economics.
This year, five of the 16 laureates hail from Asia, distinguished for their trailblazing contributions to chemistry and physiology. Japan has three representatives on the list—Dr. Mitsuo Sawamoto, Dr. Toshio Hirano and Dr. Tadamitsu Kishimoto—while Dr. Barry Halliwell and Dr. Ho Wang Lee are based in Singapore and South Korea, respectively.
Some of the biggest discoveries emerge from tiny molecules, with scientists devising novel ways to assemble them into chains called polymers. Sawamoto, Citation Laureate in Chemistry from Kyoto University and Chubu University, developed a highly precise method called metal-catalyzed living radical polymerization, where reactive species called radicals attach the molecules onto the chain.
By adding metals, Sawamoto not only accelerated this reaction but also functionalized the structure, altering properties like charge and reactivity. These tailor-made polymers are now widely used in manufacturing materials like electronics.
Besides industrial methods, biological functions like energy production naturally generate free radicals that are then neutralized by cells’ antioxidant compounds. Halliwell—who holds positions at the National University of Singapore and the Agency for Science, Technology and Research—pioneered research on free radical chemistry and antioxidants, exploring how radicals can damage DNA and contribute to diseases like cancer.
In the medical sphere, Korea University’s Lee was the first to isolate hantaviruses, which cause an infectious disease called hemorrhagic fever with renal syndrome. By identifying the virus in rodent tissues, he paved the way for mapping the virus’ genes and global spread, later developing a rapid diagnostic kit and vaccine to curb infections.
Meanwhile at Osaka University, Hirano and Kishimoto’s discovery of a protein called interleukin-6 and its pivotal role in immunity shaped our current understanding of how cells produce infection-fighting antibodies. Over four decades since, their work has influenced developing new therapies against diseases like rheumatoid arthritis—even contributing to COVID-19 research.
Other recognized scientists are based in the US, France and Italy. Since the award’s creation in 2002, 59 Citation Laureates have gone on to win Nobel prizes.
Source: Clarivate; Illustration: Ajun Chuah/Asian Scientist Magazine.
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