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US, Japanese immunologists awarded Asia's version of Nobel prize

Published on Jun 19, 2014 2:11 PM

TAIPEI (AFP) - An American and a Japanese immunologist were on Thursday named joint recipients of the Tang Prize, touted as Asia's version of the Nobels, for their contributions in the fight against cancer.

Dr James P. Allison of the MD Anderson Cancer Centre at the University of Texas, and Dr Tasuku Honjo of Kyoto University beat some 100 nominees from around the world to take the inaugural prize in the category of biopharmaceutical sciences.

"This is an exciting time in our fight against cancer," the Tang Prize Foundation said. "Their pioneering research has led to a new field in the therapy of cancers, which are already the leading killers to mankind," Dr Chen Chien-jen, vice president of Taiwan's top academic body Academia Sinica, told reporters.

Dr Allison, currently chair of Immunology and director of Immunotherapy Platform at the University of Texas, was one of the two scientists to identify the ligand CTLA-4 as an inhibitory receptor on T-cells in 1995, and was the first to recognise it as a potential target for cancer therapy. T-cells are a type of lymphocyte that play a central role in cell-mediated immunity.

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