Breakthrough innovations honoured: European Inventor of the Year awards

May 5, 2006


Medical breakthroughs in fighting Hepatitis B, novel anti-viral properties, the DNA chip and methods for intercepting illness causing proteins are among the final winners of the European Inventor of the Year awards. Another winner is the Giant-Magnetoresistance Effect which increases the data volume of hard drives. Finally Federico Faggin has been honoured with the Lifetime Achievement for the invention of the microchip. The winners have all contributed to society via their innovations and progressive contributions. They were selected by an international jury, chaired by former Netherlands Prime Minister Wim Kok on the basis of outstanding technical inventions for which the European Patent Office granted a patent between 1991 and 2000. Today, Günter Verheugen, Vice-President of the European Commission and Alain Pompidou, President of the European Patent Office honoured the winners from the six different categories at a gala evening at the Autoworld Museum in Brussels (see MEMO/06/180 /PART I).

Commission Vice-President Verheugen: "The ‘European Inventor of the Year awards’ highlight that Europe continues to be leading in providing breakthrough inventions. These are striking examples how technical innovation, patent protection and marketing strategies can successfully interact for the benefit of the economy (see MEMO/06/181 /PART II)."

President Pompidou praises the high standard of the inventions: "The jury's selection demonstrates how patents cover inventions that are of great benefit to today's society and are also in use in the public domain. The quality of the inventions illustrates the high level of innovative research taking place in Europe. The fact that some of these inventions are the result of successful teamwork and are no longer attributable to one specific country only is further proof of an increasing transnational dimension of R&D in Europe."

The winning inventions cover an array of applications, ranging from medical advances to computer technology and microelectronics.

Zbigniew Janowicz and Professor Cornelius Hollenberg (Rhein Biotech GmbH, DE) were chosen as winners of the industry category. The two scientists invented a method for making proteins in Hansenula yeast, which is used as a key component in the production of an affordable Hepatitis B vaccine.

Winner of the category for small and medium-sized enterprises is Dr Stephen P.A. Fodor and his team of scientists, Michael C. Pirrung, Leighton J. Read and Lubert Styler (Affymax, NL). Their invention of the DNA chip has enabled scientists to study gene expression by providing a snapshot of all the genes that are active in a cell at a particular time.

Professor Peter Grünberg (Kernforschunglanlage Jülich, DE) won first prize in the Universities and Research category for his discovery of Giant-Magnetoresistance Effect, or GMR, which vastly increases the data volume stored per square inch of hard drive.

John Edwards Starrett (Institute of Organic Chemistry and Biotechemistry of the Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republic, CZ) and his team are winners of the category for New EU Member States. Their work has resulted in a breakthrough with chemical compounds, called prodrugs of phosphonates, which offer novel anti-viral properties.

Winners of the Non-European countries award are two American scientists, Larry Gold and Craig Tuerk (NeXstar Pharmaceuticals Inc., US), who found out that nucleic acids can bind to a protein to potentially intercept other proteins that cause disease.

Federico Faggin (IT) has been honoured with the Lifetime Achievement award for his invention of the microchip, which has made a huge impact to the world of microelectronics and technology, including computers, calculators and modern cars.

Further information on the candidates and the awards ceremony in the Autoworld Museum are enclosed in the press folder.
European Patent Office
Rainer Osterwalder
Tel.: +49 89/2399-1821
Fax: +49 89/2399-2850

Item source: IP/06/558 Date: 03/05/2006

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