Sri Lankan Professor Malik Peiris, together with Prof. Yuen Kwok-yung have won the 2021 Future Science Prize and $ 1 million for their studies on SARS and MERS, tweeted Chinese Embassy in Sri Lanka. The Future Science Prize is established by private fund in 2016 to promote scientific breakthroughs and innovations in China.
Prof. Kwok-Yung Yuen and Prof. Joseph Sriyal Malik Peiris won the Prize in life sciences for their discoveries of SARS-CoV-1 as the causative agent for the global SARS outbreak in 2003 and its zoonotic origin, with impact on combating Covid-19 and emerging infectious diseases.
Prof. Jie Zhang won the Future Science Prize in physical sciences for his development of laser-based fast electron beam technologies and their applications in ultrafast time-resolved electron microscopy and fast ignition for research towards inertial confinement fusion.
Prof. Simon Sze won the prize in mathematics and computer science, for his contributions to understanding carrier transports at the interface between metal and semiconductor, enabling Ohmic and Schottky-contact formations for scaling integrated circuits at the “Moore’s law” rate during the past five decades.
2021 The Life Science Prize Laureate – Joseph Sriyal Malik Peiris
During the outbreak of severe acute respiratory syndrome (SAR) in 2003, Kwok-Yung Yuen, Joseph Sriyal Malik Peiris and their team treated the first patients in Hong Kong and isolated SARS-CoV-1 from their clinical specimens, which was critical to the design of diagnostic tests and disease characterization (Lancet April 19, 2003). In addition, Kwok-Yung Yuen’s continued studies on SARS-like viruses in wild bats greatly increased our knowledge of zoonotic reservoirs, barriers to cross-species transmission, pathogenesis, and clinical diagnosis of these viruses. Because of the high prevalence of SARS-like coronavirus in bats, the discovery predicted the potential re-emergence of a SARS-like epidemic and stressed the importance of public health preparedness. As predicted, the bat coronavirus HKU4/5 was found to be closely related to MERS-CoV that caused the epidemic Middle East respiratory syndrome.
In summary, Kwok-Yung Yuan and Joseph Sriyal Malik Peiris have made seminal contributions to our understanding of emerging infectious diseases from SARS in 2003 to COVID-19, which led to more effective responses and strategies in controlling these diseases.
Kwok-Yung Yuen, born in 1956 in Hong Kong, China, obtained his Ph.D. from the University of Hong Kong in 1998, is currently a professor at the University of Hong Kong.
Joseph Sriyal Malik Peiris, born in 1949 in Sri Lanka, obtained his Ph.D. from the University of Oxford in 1981, is currently a professor at the University of Hong Kong.