Indian-origin chemist from Cambridge University, Shankar Balasubramanian, has been declared the joint winner of the 2020 Millennium Technology prize. Along with Balasubramanian, David Klenerman was also awarded this prestigious global science and technology prize.
The prize was awarded to the duo on Tuesday, 18 May, by the President of the Republic of Finland Sauli Niinisto, who is the patron of the prize.
Balasubramanian and Klenerman were honoured for their development of revolutionary Next Generation DNA sequencing, which has helped in finding new variants of COVID-19.
Balasubramanian is an India-born British professor of medicinal chemistry, while Klenerman is a British biophysical chemist. The duo co-invented the Solexa - Illumina Next Generation DNA sequencing – the process of determining the complete DNA sequence of an organism's make-up, which is proving crucial in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We are delighted and honoured to be the tenth recipients of the Millennium Technology Prize.”Shankar Balasubramanian
“This is the first time we’ve received an international prize that recognises our contribution to developing the technology – but it’s not just for us, it’s for the whole team that played a key role in the development of the technology and for all those that have inspired us on our journey”David Klenerman
Solexa, is a company that was started by Balasubramanian and Klenerman to make technology broadly available to everyone in the world. The technology they co-founded has now helped them to track and explore the viral mutation of COVID. This nobel-winning work helped creation of multiple vaccines against dangerous viral strains. The results will also be used to prevent future pandemics.
The Millennium Technology Prize is one of the world’s most prestigious science and technology prizes. The global award, worth €1 million, is presented every second year in honour of a pioneering technological innovation.
This is the first time that the prize has been awarded to more than one recipient for the same innovation, celebrating the significance of collaboration.
The Next Generation Sequencing (NGS) Technology has helped the scientists and medical researchers sequence the SARS-CoV-2 virus. This has been a crucial step in the development of effective vaccines and to understand why the virus is varied.
“The technology pioneered by Professor Balasubramanian and Professor Klenerman has also played a key role in helping discover the coronavirus’s sequence, which in turn enabled the creation of the vaccines – itself a triumph for cross-border collaboration – and helped identify new variants of COVID-19.”Professor Marja Makarow, Chair of Technology Academy, Finland