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Europe honours drug inventors

The creators of drugs to combat chronic myelogenous leukaemia and malaria have won in two categories of the European Inventor of the Year awards

The creators of drugs to combat chronic myelogenous leukaemia (CML) and malaria have won in two categories of the European Inventor of the Year awards.

Medicinal chemist, Jürg Zimmermann (Switzerland), and oncologist, Brian Druker (US), were honoured in the industry category for their leukaemia drug, Glivec, which claims a 98 per cent remission rate against CML.

In the non-European countries section, Zhou Yiqing (China), won for his anti-malaria drug, Coartem. In 1996, Prof Zhou and his research team at the Microbiology and Epidemiology Institute in Beijing developed the cheap and effective anti-malaria treatment based on a herbal remedy. Made by Novartis, it is now regarded as the most effective treatment for malaria.

The European Commission (EC) and European Patent Office (EPO) presented the 2009 awards at the Czech capital's Prague castle yesterday. EPO president, Alison Brimelow, said, "The award celebrates the creativity of all inventors who, in applying their technical, scientific and intellectual skills, make a major contribution to technical progress, growth and employment in Europe. Such skills are particularly important in economically difficult times." 

The independent international jury chose from among commercially successful inventions patented by the EPO before January 1, 2004. The awards are purely symbolic and do not include a cash prize or other material reward.

Launched in 2006, they are a joint initiative of the EC and the EPO, and honour inventors and inventions that have made a significant and lasting contribution to technological progress in Europe, thereby strengthening the European economy.

"Without patents, some important innovations might never see the light of day," Alison Brimelow continued. "This is especially true in the pharmaceutical sector. Patent protection provides companies and individuals with an important incentive to develop and bring to market new ideas and inventions - including life-saving drugs."

29th April 2009

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