2012 For Women in Science International Fellowships encourage global scientific
cooperation, recognise distinguished scientists for excellence in research
Singapore, April 2, 2012 – An outstanding woman scientist from Singapore was today announced the recipient of the prestigious 2012 L’Oréal-UNESCO International Fellowship award. Dr Patricia Ng, Research Fellow at the Agency for Science, Technology and Research’s (A*STAR) Singapore Immunology Network, was among 15 exceptional winners from around the world to receive the International Fellowship accolade at the 14th Annual L’Oréal-UNESCO Awards for Women in Science held at the UNESCO Headquarters in Paris, France.
The L’Oréal-UNESCO International Fellowship programme was created in 2000 to encourage distinguished women scientists at doctoral or postdoctoral level and provide visibility and recognition for their excellent work, contribution to scientific advancement and impact on society. Three International Fellows are chosen from each of the five UNESCO regions to continue their research in prestigious institutions outside their home country so as to gain important experience and build networks. Winners are also entitled to USD$20,000 for their work; fellowships can be extended 12 additional months with up to USD$20,000 additional funding upon request of the Fellow and validation of the Selection Committee.
At the award ceremony today, President of the L’Oréal-UNESCO Awards Jury Professor Günter Blobel noted, “The 15 UNESCO-L’Oréal International Fellows for 2012 were chosen for the excellence and feasibility of their proposed projects and for the potential impact of their research on the lives of human beings or the environment. Among a wide range of research topics in the domains of health and environmental protection, a research trend that stands out is the field of glycobiology, which yields prospects for the development of new antibiotics able to withstand resistance.”
Re-engineering antibodies for improved efficiency against viruses
Dr Patricia Ng’s doctorate research focuses on the challenge of re-engineering antibodies, the body’s main arm against infection, so that they become more effective in fighting disease. Recent research has shown that some antibodies can bind to adenoviruses (medium-sized nonenveloped viruses), allowing them to follow the viruses into the cell. The cell contains a protein called TRIM21 which enables it to detect the antibody, while triggering a biological mechanism which destroys the virus and prevents it from multiplying inside the cell.
Dr. Ng’s study focuses on modifying the structure of the antibody such that its interaction with TRIM21 becomes stronger in order to remove viruses more efficiently and rapidly. Her investigation objective is to develop an improved antibody which can be adapted onto other antibodies that bind to viruses. These engineered antibodies are posited to improve the killing of common and sometimes deadly viruses, such as the rotavirus and enterovirus which are linked to diarrhea and hand-foot-mouth disease respectively.
Having a fascination for the unknown, Dr Ng feels that “science is like magic with an explanation, minus the camera tricks.” She adds, “A career in science is intriguing and powerful. It allows us to understand why things go wrong, while providing us with the tools to figure out how to make them right again.”
Making protein-based therapy the next generation of drugs
While protein-based therapy is becoming an increasingly more significant treatment method, especially in cancer and autoimmune disease therapies, many of the drugs are flawed and come with considerable side-effects, while remaining costly to develop. Dr Ng hopes to use her work in protein engineering to solve these challenges and promote better understanding of the antibody structure. “I want to contribute to the development of protein-based therapy, so that these drugs can become more affordable and lead to effective treatments for infectious diseases”, said Dr Ng.
Pride of Asia and the Pacific
For the past 14 years, the L’Oréal Corporate Foundation and UNESCO have provided global support to women researchers who contribute to moving science forward. To date, International Fellowships have been granted to 180 women from 83 countries, enabling them to pursue their research at home or abroad. The programme has become a benchmark of scientific excellence on an international scale.
Said Managing Director of L’Oréal Singapore, Mr Christopher Neo, “The L’Oréal-UNESCO Awards for Women in Science highlights scientific excellence and talent, and promotes the work of remarkable women scientists to surpass research frontiers for great potential impact on the lives of human beings and the environment. Singapore’s representation in the International Fellowships is truly a source of pride, and an inspiration for other women scientists.” Mr Lim Chuan Poh, Chairman, A*STAR remarked, “Patricia’s research at A*STAR has great potential for future healthcare solutions and it is heartening that she has been honoured through the 2012 L’Oreal-Unesco International Fellowship. Patricia will be an inspiration to many in the scientific community especially the women and Singapore remains committed to grooming top-notch local talent who will contribute to society and lead our drive to become Asia’s Innovation Capital.”
The 2012 L’Oréal-UNESCO International Fellows were selected by an independent, international Jury presided by Jury President Professor Günter Blobel. Working with him on the panel were:
Head of Hair Biology Research Group, L’Oréal
International Basic Sciences Program Section, UNESCO
Director and Executive Secretary, International Basic Sciences Programme, UNESCO
Stem Cell Group, L’Oréal Research and Innovation
Director of L’Oréal Research and Innovation Communication
Head, Fellowship Program Section, UNESCO
More Than 10 Years of Supporting Women in Science
Created in 1998, the L’Oréal-UNESCO Awards For Women in Science were established by the L’Oréal Corporate Foundation as the first international awards dedicated to women scientists around the world. 14 years later, the programme is a benchmark of international scientific excellence, and an invaluable source of motivation, support, and inspiration for women in the scientific field. The Awards alternate each year between Life
Sciences and Physical Sciences, recognising work that addresses major challenges in modern science. The For Women in Science programme has to date supported over 1200 Women Scientists in 103 countries, fostering a global community of scientific talent that continues to grow each year.
L’ORÉAL is the worldwide leader in cosmetics with consolidated sales exceeding €20.3billion in 2010. With over 23 international brands in five key expertise areas (haircare, haircolor, skincare, make-up and fragrance), the company is fully committed to putting energy and know-how into the business of beauty. It has successfully done this for nearly a century and has a long list of patents including 610 patents filed in 2010 alone. L’ORÉAL believes that it is the right of the individual to express their personalities to the full and works towards the wellbeing of men and women, in all their diversity, around the world.
L’Oréal Corporate Foundation
The L’Oréal Corporate Foundation, created in 2007, pursues the goal of making the world a better place eachday. Drawing on the Group’s values and professional expertise, the L’Oréal Foundation aims to reinforce andperpetuate the Group’s commitment to responsible citizenship. As the second largest corporate foundation inFrance, the L’Oréal Foundation is active in three main areas: supporting scientific research and the role ofwomen in science, helping vulnerable people regain self-esteem and social reintegration, and fostering access to education. More information can be found at www.loreal.com.sg.
Singapore National Commission for UNESCO
The Singapore National Commission for UNESCO, which was launched on 28 May 2008, was set up to plan andcoordinate Singapore’s activities and programmes in UNESCO. Dr Ng Eng Hen, Minister for Defence, is theChairman of the Singapore National Commission. There are 3 sub-commissions focusing on Education, Science and Culture & Information. More information can be found at www.unesco.sg.
Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR)
The Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR) is the lead agency for fostering world-classscientific research and talent for a vibrant knowledge-based Singapore. A*STAR actively nurtures public sectorresearch and development in Biomedical Sciences, Physical Sciences and Engineering, and supportsSingapore’s key economic clusters by providing intellectual, human and industrial capital to its partners inindustry and the healthcare sector. It oversees 23 research institutes, consortia and centres located in Biopolisand Fusionopolis, and the area in their vicinity, and supports extramural research in the universities, hospitals,research centres, and with other local and international partners.More information can be found at www.a-star.edu.sg.
Released on behalf of L'Oréal Singapore by Huntington Communications.
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