Singapore-based scientist wins top science and technology award of Islamic world

Professor Jackie Ying will be awarded the inaugural Mustafa Prize in the Top Scientific Achievement category on Friday.
Professor Jackie Ying will be awarded the inaugural Mustafa Prize in the Top Scientific Achievement category on Friday. ST PHOTO: SEAH KWANG PENG

SINGAPORE - A Singapore-based scientist has won the top science and technology award of the Islamic world, which comes with a $700,000 cash prize.

Professor Jackie Ying, 49, executive director of the Institute of Bioengineering and Nanotechnology (IBN), will be awarded the inaugural Mustafa Prize in the Top Scientific Achievement category on Friday (Dec 25), in a ceremony to be held in Teheran, Iran.

This prize is meant for individuals whose research has improved human life and "expanded the boundaries of our perception about the world".

Among her numerous scientific contributions, Prof Ying was recognised in particular for her role in developing glucose-sensitive nanoparticles that deliver insulin to diabetic patients only when their blood glucose levels are high.

The system does away with external blood glucose monitoring by finger pricks, and allows insulin to be delivered orally or by the nasal passage, instead of through injections.

Professor Hossein Zohour, head of the scientific committee of the Mustafa Prize, said the groundbreaking research is "an outstanding scientific approach of great promise for improving the quality of life of mankind in the near future".

The other top award winner, under the Nano Science and Nanotechnologies category, was Jordanian chemist Omar Yaghi, co-director of the Kavli Energy NanoSciences Institute at the University of California, Berkeley.

The pair edged out 600 other nominees, including Nobel laureates and scientists in the top of their fields.

The Mustafa Prize recognises leading researchers and scientists of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) member states, and Muslim researchers from around the world.

Prof Ying, who was born in Taipei, and raised in Singapore and New York, converted to Islam in her 30s.

She told The Straits Times that she intends to use a portion of the prize money to get more students intrigued about science, such as through exchange trips to renowned overseas science institutions and better-equipped school laboratories. She will start her effort at her alma mater Raffles Girls' School.