2024 Tang Prize Laureates Announced: Six Global Visionaries to Be Honored in Taiwan This September

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The prestigious 2024 Tang Prize Laureates have been announced, recognizing outstanding contributions in various fields. The Tang Prize in Sustainable Development is awarded to American chemist Omar M. Yaghi. In the field of Biopharmaceutical Science, the prize is jointly awarded to Joel F. Habener, Svetlana Mojsov, and Jens Juul Holst. University Professor Emeritus Hsu Cho-yun of the University of Pittsburgh and Academician of Academia Sinica is honored with the Tang Prize in Sinology. Mary Robinson, a former lawyer and senator, former president of Ireland, former United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, and current Chair of The Elders, is awarded the Tang Prize in Rule of Law. These six distinguished laureates will be formally honored at an upcoming ceremony to be held in Taiwan this September.


The Tang Prize in Sustainable Development is awarded to Omar M. Yaghi, for his extraordinary contributions to sustainable development, particularly his pioneering work with Metal-Organic Frameworks (MOFs) and other ultra-porous frameworks that can be tailored for carbon capture, hydrogen and methane storage, and water harvesting from desert air. His research has revolutionized the field of chemistry and materials science, offering transformative solutions for sustainable development through the creation of customizable materials with exceptional properties.


As a pioneer of MOFs and COFs, Professor Yaghi is the first scientist to apply these innovative materials to the field of sustainable development, demonstrating tangible and impressive results. Professor Yaghi has introduced a new method for controlling four of the smallest gas molecules in the atmosphere that significantly impact our planet's sustainable development: carbon dioxide, hydrogen, methane, and water. This was made possible through his pioneering development of a new field of chemistry known as reticular chemistry. Reticular chemistry is a new approach to creating materials by linking organic and inorganic units into strong, porous crystalline structures called metal-organic frameworks (MOFs) and covalent organic frameworks (COFs). Professor Yaghi demonstrated how these novel framework materials can trap, concentrate, and manipulate hydrogen, methane, carbon dioxide, and water from the air, offering innovative solutions to pressing issues related to the United Nations' Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), including energy, environment, and water resources.


Professor Joel F. Habener, Professor Svetlana Mojsov, and Professor Jens Juul Holst have been jointly awarded the Tang Prize in Biopharmaceutical Science, for the discovery of GLP-1 (7-37) as an insulinotropic factor and the development of GLP-1 (7-37)-based anti-diabetic and anti-obesity drugs.


Of the 8 billion people in the world today, as many as 500 million have diabetes, and nearly 1 billion are obese. The two diseases lead to many severe complications, resulting in a heavy medical burden for both the individual and society. Fortunately, GLP-1-based therapeutics have recently become blockbuster drugs to treat obesity and diabetes. The research of the three laureates began in the 1980s, starting from identifying GLP-1 and its active form GLP-1 (7-37), and leading to its application as an anti-diabetic strategy. Their work exemplifies the translation of groundbreaking basic research into pharmaceutical success with major impacts on human health. At present, there are at least 13 GLP-1 RA (GLP-1 receptor agonists) drugs approved by the FDA for treating diabetes and obesity, benefiting hundreds of millions of users with prospects of even greater benefits in the future. In addition, an emerging oral drug called DPP-4 inhibitors is also widely used in clinics. It blocks the degradation of GLP-1 (7-37) by DPP-4 in the body, thereby prolonging the function of GLP-1 (7-37) in promoting insulin secretion and lowering blood sugar.


University Professor Emeritus Hsu Cho-yun is awarded the Tang Prize in Sinology for his exceptional contributions to the field of Sinology. Professor Hsu's illustrious academic career has been distinguished by his holistic approach to the study of ancient Chinese history, seamlessly integrating an exploration of cultural and intellectual exchanges between China and the world. With his profound erudition and unwavering public spirit, Professor Hsu embodies the quintessential Sinologist, possessing both a deep historical sensibility and a broad, worldly vision.


Professor Hsu integrated methodologies drawn from social sciences into historical research early in his career. His work reflects historical insights that take one to look into the bygone ages and the present and future, embodying a blend of antiquity and modernity. He has proven that Sinology is not limited to the institutional dialogues of the past, but can transcend the ivory tower of academia to engage in dialogues with various fields of humanities and social sciences, making a fundamental impact on Sinology. He specializes in particular topics of the Zhou, Qin, and Han periods, achieving unique insights that contribute to a comprehensive interpretation of the history of early China. Notable examples include his exploration of the Huaxia consciousness among kinship groups in his monograph Western Chou Civilization, the central/local and political/social bureaucratic system in Qiugu Bian [Discovering Antiquity], and the intensive rural/commercial market economy in Han Agriculture. These discourses form what he calls “the three matrixes of Chinese culture.”


The Tang Prize in Rule of Law is awarded to Professor Mary Robinson, for her "powerful advocacy for the most disadvantaged in different spheres, including gender equality, poverty alleviation, human rights, and climate justice." In particular, the Selection Committee noted that her "passionate endeavors demonstrated an effective combination of legal acumen and practical solutions." The Committee also noted that "from the national to the global stage, legal and political, she has innovatively transformed and expanded the various positions in which she has served to strengthen the rule of law."

All the positions served by Professor Robinson have demonstrated how her career paths over decades have ranged from legal to political realms and covered domestic and international levels. Over the years, she has been active in promoting the rule of law in different spheres. The evolution of her roles, from litigator to national leader to finally global voice, has expanded her focus from national and regional law to international law, as well as from civil and human rights to global justice. She seamlessly combines a lawyer's meticulous attention to legal detail, a legislator's pursuit of practical solutions, and a human rights advocate's fervor for justice. Her impacts transcend boundaries.



About the Tang Prize

Since the advent of globalization, mankind has been able to enjoy the convenience brought forth by the advancement of human civilization and science. Yet a multitude of challenges, such as climate change, the emergence of new infectious diseases, wealth gap, and moral degradation, have surfaced along the way. Against this backdrop, Dr. Samuel Yin established the Tang Prize in December 2012. It consists of four award categories, namely Sustainable Development, Biopharmaceutical Science, Sinology, and Rule of Law. Every other year, four independent and professional selection committees, comprising many internationally renowned experts, scholars, and Nobel winners, choose as Tang Prize laureates people who have influenced and made substantive contributions to the world, regardless of ethnicity, nationality or gender. A cash prize of NT$50 million (approx. US$1.7 million) is allocated to each category, with NT$10 million (approx. US$ 0.35 million) of it being a research grant intended to encourage professionals in every field to examine mankind’s most urgent needs in the 21st century, and become leading forces in the development of human society through their outstanding research outcomes and active civic engagement.