In the past two years, international interactions have been greatly restricted due to the COVID pandemic. Despite these difficult circumstances, the Tang Prize Foundation continues its main work related to the selection of laureates, the planning of the award ceremony as well as the organization of academic and educational events. Recently, it also received valuable gifts sent from eight 2020 laureates living respectively in the following seven countries: the U.S., the U.K., Japan, Singapore, Bangladesh, Colombia, and Lebanon. Among these precious mementos are a twig used by the chimpanzee, David Greybeard, to “fish” for termites, a phenomenon that Sustainable Development laureate Dr. Jane Goodall witnessed for the first time when she was in the Gombe National Park in 1960. There are also two wooden Australian aboriginal spears purchased by Dr. Marc Feldmann, one of the 2020 laureates in Biopharmaceutical Science, from the well-known collector Jim Davidson in 1977 or 1978. Growing up in Australia and having a natural affinity with the country, Dr. Feldmann sees the spears as symbols of his “successful chase for a good therapeutic target,” as he explained in an email to the Foundation. Dejusticia: The Center for Law, Justice, and Society won the prize for Rule of Law with two other NGOs in 2020. They kindly gave the Foundation three items that are highly representative of the local color of Colombia: a native hammock, a native bag, and an embroidered textile made by Colombian women. On it are pictorial portrayals of Dejustica’s fight for the protection of human rights and the environment in Colombia, and even the story of them winning the Tang Prize is told vividly by an image sowed at the bottom of it. Prof. Wang Gungwu, Australian by nationality but currently a resident in Singapore, is the recipient of the 2020 Tang Prize in Sinology. Included in his presents is a facsimile of the Honorary Dr. Litt. Degree that has the signature of the late Prince Philip on it and was conferred on him by the University of Cambridge in 2009. Pregnant with meanings, these gifts signal a different kind of international interaction conducted during the pandemic.
Dr. Jenn-Chuan Chern, CEO of the Tang Prize Foundation, expressed his gratitude to the laureates for the efforts they put into the selection of their gifts. Unique and deeply symbolic, some of the gifts are linked to the breakthroughs the laureates have achieved; some are of personal significance to them; some are their sources of inspiration; some tell the stories of their lives; and all are worthy of collection. Take Dr. Goodall’s gift as an example. The twig refers to the discovery she made in 1960s about how chimpanzees can make and use tools, a paradigm-shifting discovery that redefined the human-animal relationship and was hailed by Harvard University’s Dr. Stephen Gould as “one of the greatest achievements of 20th-century scholarship.” Dr. Chern pointed out that every time when the Tang Prize laureates were announced, we were looking at a group of people who have created profound impact and made concrete contributions to the world in the categories of Sustainable Development, Biopharmaceutical Science, Sinology, and Rule of Law. Like a lighthouse beacon, they have guided researchers in these four fields for years and, in this way, have helped enhance the wellbeing of humanity. Both the laureates and their contributions are the most precious assets for the Tang Prize Foundation, and for all of mankind as well. Thus, for each award year, the Foundation stages a Tang Prize Exhibition to share with the public these intellectual treasures. The fourth Tang Prize Exhibition is currently on view at Kaohsiung’s National Science and Technology Museum. Teachers and parents are welcomed to bring their students and children to visit. The Foundation is also planning to display the gifts from the 2020 laureates in the next exhibition.
Apart from the aforementioned gifts from four of the 2020 laureates, the Foundation also received packages from two other scientists jointly awarded the Tang Prize with Dr. Feldmann. Dr. Charles Dinarello shipped to us a glass cube with a three dimensional model of IL-1β(interleukin-1β) in it, and a T-shirt with an IL-1βlogo on it. Considered one of the founding fathers of cytokine research, Dr. Dinarello established IL-1βas a key mediator of fever and inflammatory response, paving the way for the development of IL-1-targeting therapies. Dr. Tadamitsu Kishimoto mailed to us a signed copy of his autobiography, Half-a-Century as an Immunologist, published by the Nikkei newspaper in 2003. Dr. Kishimoto discovered a cytokine called IL-6 (interleukin 6). He then prepared a monoclonal anti-IL-6 receptor antibody and helped conduct several large-scale trials on the efficacy and safety of this antibody in patients with rheumatoid arthritis and juvenile idiopathic arthritis. It was eventually approved by the food and drug administrations in many countries to treat a variety of autoimmune diseases. From basic discovery to hypothesis forming, drug development, and clinical translation, Dr. Kishimoto’s professional journey is faithfully depicted in this book.
The other two laureates in the Rule of Law category have not been absent from this list. The Bangladesh Environmental Lawyers Association (BELA) picked for us six handicrafts closely associated with the culture and tradition of Bangladesh. They reflect the fact that agriculture, forestry, fishing, and animal husbandry are the main economic sectors in Bangladesh and that people there rely on an unpolluted environment for their survival. By conducting public interest litigation, BELA has succeeded in expanding the constitutionally recognized right to life to include the right to the environment. As a result, the court has issued a ruling, urging the government to protect wetlands, restore rivers, and stop allocating forestland for developing purposes so as to safeguard people’s rights and interests, and to achieve a balance between the pursuit of economic growth and the quest for environmental justice. The Legal Agenda complied a booklet in which a selection of editorial illustrations showcase a number of important issues they have been working on in Lebanon and Tunisia for the past ten years.