The 2017 Carlos J. Finlay UNESCO Prize for Microbiology was awarded to Pakistani microbiologist Professor Shahida Hasnain and Dr Samir Saha from Bangladesh. The prize has an endowment of $10,000, which will be shared by the two laureates.
Set up in 1977 by UNESCO at the initiative of the Government of Cuba, the Carlos J. Finlay Prize rewards scientists whose research has made an outstanding contribution to microbiology and its applications.
The prize will be presented to the winners on November 6 during the 39th session of the General Conference of UNESCO, which will bring together the organization’s 195 member states from October 30 to November 14.
Dr Shahida Hasnain, founder and chairperson of the Department of Microbiology and Molecular Genetics at the University of Punjab in Lahore, has won numerous distinctions for her work. Her department is recognized as a centre of excellence, for its equipment and expertise.
“Professor Hasnain has significant contributions to research in environmental, agricultural and medical microbiology. She has notably worked on heavy metal detoxification mechanisms, salt stress tolerance mechanisms, and bacterial morphogenesis,” said a statement by UNESCO.
Dr Hasnain has a PhD in Microbial and Molecular Genetics from Birmingham University in the United Kingdom. She later completed her post-doctorate research in Molecular Microbiology from the same university in 1995.
She has received numerous awards, including the Fatima Jinnah Gold Medal by the Government of the Punjab in 2006, the National Education Award in 2005 by the Pakistan Education Forum and the UNESCO/ROSTSCA Award for Young Scientists (from Central and South Asian region) in 1988.
Dr Hasnain is sharing the award with Dr Samir Saha, who is the head of the Microbiology Department of the Dhaka Shishu Hospital for children in Bangladesh. The scientist is also the executive director of the Child Health Research Foundation at the Bangladesh Institute of Child Health.
As a leading researcher in paediatrics, he played a key role in introducing vaccines against two bacteria that cause meningitis to Bangladesh. These had a direct impact on the health of children in the country. He has also led research into the resistance to treatment of some pneumococcal diseases.
The two laureates were named by Irina Bokova, Director-General of UNESCO, on the recommendation of an international jury of experts in microbiology.