European Inventor of the Year 2009: Three Pharmaceutical Innovations Nominated


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Pioneering solutions to today's global challenges: awards ceremony in Prague on 28 April 2009

Brussels/Munich, 18 March 2009 -- The European Patent Office (EPO) and the European Commission today announced the 12 nominees for this year's European Inventor of the Year awards. Their inventions are a reflection of many of today's toughest challenges, and the nominations are dominated by the issues of energy, environment and health. Through these patented innovations, the inventors, who were nominated by an international jury, have combated disease, exploited new sources of energy, improved security procedures or developed new mobility concepts. All of the nominated inventions are in keeping with the spirit of the European Inventor of the Year awards, which symbolize the force of human innovation as the basis for technical, economic and social progress.

The pharmaceuticals sector accounts for quite a few of the finalists: Jürg Zimmermann and Brian Druker (from Switzerland and the USA), Yiqing Zhou and his team (China) and Maria-Regina Kula (Germany) are all in the running.

Jürg Zimmermann, a medical scientist, and Brian Druker, an oncologist, have done much to disarm chronic myelogenous leukaemia (CML), one of the most virulent forms of cancer. Using findings from DNA research, the two researchers have developed a new and highly effective drug to combat the disease. It is now marketed by Novartis as Glivec. They are finalists in the "industry" category.

In the "non-European countries" category, a team of researchers at the Microbiology and Epidemiology Institute in Beijing - Yiqing Zhou, Shufen Wang, Deben Ding, Guofu Li, Chengqi Shan and Guangyu Lie - have been nominated for developing Coartem, a cheap and effective anti-malaria drug based on an ancient herbal remedy used in traditional Chinese medicine and now regarded as the best way to combat this debilitating tropical disease.

Ms Kula is a biochemist who has made it possible to use the yeast enzyme formate dehydrogenase (FDH) as a catalyst in the chemical industry, and thus to make drugs and chemicals in a "gentler", more eco-friendly way. Her nomination is in the "life-time achievement" category.

The winners of the prestigious prizes in the four categories of industry, SMEs/research, non-European countries and lifetime achievement will be revealed at a ceremony in Prague on 28 April 2009.

Previous winners include Peter Grünberg (2006), who has since won the Nobel prize for physics, and Erik De Clercq (2008), the developer of a life-saving anti-AIDS drugs cocktail.

European Commission Vice-President Günter Verheugen, responsible for Enterprise and Industry, stated: "This competition shows that Europe has the potential for truly groundbreaking inventions, which we urgently need today to solve global problems and to help our economy back on a growth path. All nominees are evidence of Europe's innovative strength and competitiveness."Alison Brimelow, President of the European Patent Office: "In many areas of technology, patents play an essential role in helping innovation to flourish. This role must be strengthened by a consistent policy of quality in the European patent system. This is the only way to guarantee that appropriate and effective patent protection will still be available for important inventions in the future."Background: European Inventor of the Year

The "European Inventor of the Year" stands out among the many prizes for innovation due to its geographical scope and unique selection procedure. When selecting the nominees, the independent international jury can rely on the results of an open competition among candidates and on the expertise of examiners at the national patent offices and the EPO. The jury chose from among successful inventions patented by the EPO before 1 January 2004. The award is purely symbolic and does not include a cash prize or other material reward.

The awards honour inventors who have made a defining and lasting contribution to technical progress in Europe and so to strengthening the
European economy. The "European Inventor of the Year" is a joint initiative of the European Commission and the EPO and was launched in 2006.

This year's awards ceremony will be held in Prague in conjunction with the European Patent Forum/PATINNOVA 2009.

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