The 5th Tang Prize Award Ceremony was held at 14:30 (GMT+8) on August 1 in the Howard Civil Service International House in Taipei. Prominent attendees included six 2022 Tang Prize laureates, who flew to Taiwan from different parts of the world for this memorable occasion. They were introduced and presented with the prize in sequence by incumbent chairs of three Tang Prize Selection Committees, Dr. Chao-Han Liu for Sustainable Development, Dr. Wen-Chang Chang for Biopharmaceutical Science and Dr. David Der-wei Wang for Sinology, and by former chair for Rule of Law Dr. Jiunn-Rong Yeh. Over six hundred distinguished guests and representatives from Taiwan and abroad, across academic communities, government agencies and industrial sectors, gathered to witness this historic moment. There were also special performances by the Jian-Shan Primary School Choir, featuring indigenous students singing folk songs from various tribal groups of Taiwan. In addition, the ceremony was livestreamed to allow global audiences to celebrate the laureates’ significant contributions in real time and to know more about this international prize originating from Taiwan.
The 2022 Tang Prize laureates are Professor Jeffrey Sachs for Sustainable Development, Drs. Katalin Kariko, Drew Weissman, and Pieter Cullis for Biopharmaceutical Science, Professor Jessica Rawson for Sinology, and Professor Cheryl Saunders for Rule of Law.
Delivering the welcome remarks on behalf of Dr. Yin, CEO of the Tang Prize Dr. Jenn-Chuan Chern emphasized that it was a real honor for the Foundation to stage such a magnificent ceremony on-site to show our sincere admiration for the laureates. He also thanked the past and current laureates for constantly offering constructive advice on how to solve major crises confronting humanity today and for taking concrete actions to further the cause of sustainable development on a global scale. Mentioning that the Tang Prize reached its 10th -anniversary milestone in 2022, Dr. Chen quoted a well-known Chinese saying, “It takes a decade to grow a tree but it takes a century to nurture a generation of young talent,” to encourage people with dedication and determination to work with the Tang Prize to continue nurturing talent in the next one hundred years so as to create a brighter future for all.
President of the Tang Prize Selection Committee Dr. Shu Chien spoke via video link and offered the six laureates his warmest congratulations. “Your outstanding accomplishments in science, society and humanity have greatly amplified the spirit of the Tang Prize to benefit humankind,” he said, adding “your superb contributions are especially valuable today as we face severe challenges in the sustainability of our earth, and major issues in people’s health, justice and peace.”
Professor Sachs praised Dr. Yin for his “profound vision and benevolent values” and for recognizing that “humanity is at an inflection point,” which called for “new scientific and technological knowledge to surmount extreme environmental crises.” Moreover, we needed “new ethics for a globally interconnected world in which rivalries across nations must be put aside to address humanity’s common challenges and urgent needs,” Professor Sachs observed. He then commented that “our challenges and tasks must address all scales of human activity, from the quality of life in our local communities to global-scale peace and cooperation among nations.” Feeling deeply honored to receive the prize, Professor Sachs said that he was “especially grateful to the Tang Prize for encouraging the growing field of Sustainable Development,” describing it as “an intellectual discipline and practical domain that aims to bring together cutting-edge science, innovative technology, and highest ethical standards so that our children, children’s children, and later generations will thrive on this wondrous planet.”
Dr. Kariko said that she felt deeply honored to accept the prize with the other two co-laureates and to be part of a group of outstanding scientists who have been awarded the prize before her. She praised the Tang Prize for putting “a spotlight on the importance of scientific research, technological advancements, as well as international collaboration,” noting that the successful development of mRNA COVID-19 vaccines was “based on a century of scientific and technological progress by hundreds of thousands of scientists, doctors, engineers, and experts.” Growing up in a small town in Hungry, Dr. Kariko spent forty years working quietly in the lab without getting much attention. Drawing on her personal experience, she hoped to encourage all the young girls how are as curious about nature as her to believe in themselves, to become a scientist and to make the world a better place.
Dr. Weissman pointed out that the Tang Prize came as a recognition of the progress on the development of mRNA technology made by not only himself but also thousands of other researchers and this recognition underscored “the immense potential of mRNA-LNPs in transforming the landscape of medicine.” Besides, winning the prize enabled him to “reach out to lower income countries and regions and help them develop their own academic mRNA research infrastructure followed by building GMP production centers.” So far, “this has been completely in 18 locations, including Pune, Ukraine and Brazil.” Dr. Weissman believes that “this is an important manner to address the unequal access to new medicines and vaccines and allow the development of treatments needed in certain locations.”
Dr. Cullis shared that he was accepting the prize “with a lot of humility” because “the LNPs for the COVID-19 mRNA vaccines reflect over 50 years of work, many collaborators and a good deal of luck.” He also explained that “if we had not done basic research on the roles of lipids in membranes, we would not have developed any nanomedicines.” If he and his coworkers “had not started companies to try to develop improved cancer drugs,” they “would not have enabled gene therapies.” And “if Drew Weissman had not convinced us to try our systems as vaccines, we would not have played a role in the COVID-19 vaccines.” Therefore, this award “truly reflects the efforts of so many people” and he was “pleased to accept it on their behalf.”
Professor Rawson told the audience that since childhood, she has been “fascinated by the extraordinary silks and porcelains that have decorated the west over centuries.” Having spent a lifetime delving into Chinese culture, she has “come to see that the contributions of China’s ancient traditions are essential to our understanding and appreciation of all global interactions.” In addition, she expressed her gratitude to the Tang Prize for not only recognizing her work in the area of her expertise but also offering “research funds so that others can carry these projects forward as well.” Her deep engagement with China gave rise to one of her key ambitions. That is, “to stimulate and encourage interest” in gaining a more comprehensive knowledge of China.
Professor Saunders reflected on the diversity of the contributions of previous recipients of the Tang Prize in Rule of Law, regarding it as an indicator of the breadth of the concept of the rule of law and the wisdom of the decision of the Foundation to offer an award in this category. She also explained the connection between comparative constitutional law and the rule of law and examined some of the complexities of comparative constitutional law in the current phase of globalization. Referring to the assistance she has had from networks of comparative scholars and practitioners across the world, Professor Saunders noted the need for comparativists to collaborate with others. She also expressed her appreciation for the support from the Melbourne Law School, which provides a home for both the Centre for Comparative Constitutional Studies and the Constitution Transformation Network, two important platforms where new generations of comparative constitutional scholars are being nurtured now.
About the Tang Prize
The advent of industrialization and globalization ushered in a new era of comfort and convenience through scientific and technological advancements. Yet, a multitude of crises have emerged along the way, such as climate change, wealth gap, and moral degradation. To tackle these problems, Dr. Samuel Yin founded the Tang Prize in December 2012. It consists of four award categories, namely Sustainable Development, Biopharmaceutical Science, Sinology, and Rule of Law. Every two years, four independent and professional selection committees made up of distinguished international experts and scholars, including several Nobel laureates, choose Tang Prize winners from a pool of nominees who have influenced and made substantive contributions to the world, regardless of their ethnicity, nationality or gender. A cash prize of NT$50 million (approx. US$1.75 million) is allocated to each category, with NT$10 million of it (approx. US$ 0.35 million) designated as a research grant to fund laureates’ research and education projects. The hope is to encourage more people with professional knowledge and skills to address mankind’s most urgent needs in this century, and to become leading forces behind the development of human society through their outstanding research and civic engagement.