Spring 2021, when the world was still enveloped in the dark cloud of the coronavirus pandemic, the Tang Prize Foundation soldiered on and attended the world’s largest annual biomedical conference, the Experimental Biology (EB), for the sixth time. The Tang Prize Lecture at EB2021, titled “Tyrosine Phosphorylation—From Discovery to Drug Development and Beyond,” was delivered by Dr. Tony Hunter, 2018 laureate in Biopharmaceutical Science. Besides sharing stories about how he stumbled across tyrosine phosphorylation, Dr. Hunter also talked about his latest research on the mechanisms of pancreatic cancer. This session was voted as one of the 12 attendees’ favorites.
If the discovery of tyrosine phosphorylation paved the way for the development of targeted cancer therapies, the discovery of “immune checkpoints” cemented the role immunotherapy plays in cancer treatment. The breakthroughs achieved by 2014 Tang Prize winners Dr. James Allison and Prof. Tasuku Honjo changed our understanding of immunotherapy and opened up new possibilities for combating cancer. In 1993, America’s Cancer Research Institute (CRI) designated June as “Cancer Immunotherapy Month.” In this newsletter, we included a special report from the Scientific American, taking you through the history of immunotherapy to see why it didn’t receive much love in the past, why it keeps stealing the spotlight at the moment, and why there are still challenges lying ahead in the future.
Also featured in this newsletter is an interview we conducted with Taiwan’s former Vice President Chien-Jen Chen, now a distinguished research fellow at Academia Sinica, to reminiscence together about the time when the Tang Prize was just established. Dr. Chen served as the chair of the selection committee for the first Tang Prize in Biopharmaceutical Science, and seven years later, when talking about the vision they outlined at that time for the Tang Prize, his eyes still sparkled with passion. Besides praising and thanking the Tang Prize for fostering the development of Taiwan’s biomedical industry, he also explained how the Tang Prize identified its own niche and established itself as a unique prize in the 21st century, an era characterized by an abundance of international awards for medical research.
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