icddr,b scientists get Thai Prince Mahidol Award for public health

icddr,b executive director Prof John Clemens MD has been awarded this year’s Prince Mahidol Award jointly with Swedish immunologist and former icddr,b Scientific Advisory Group chair Prof Jan Holmgren for their contribution to public health.

For over 30 years, the duo significantly contributed to developing world’s only safe, effective and affordable and internationally licensed oral cholera vaccine (OCV) which has been used for millions of people at risk of or affected by the spread of cholera worldwide.

Thai Prince Mahidol Award

Prof Clemens recieves the award. Flick through right-left for more. Photos: Prince Mahidol Award Foundation.

Established under the Royal Patronage of Kingdom of Thailand, the Prince Mahidol Award Foundation annually confers two awards - each comprising a medal, a certificate and a sum of US $100,000 - for demonstrating outstanding and exemplary contributions to the advancement of the world’s medical and public health services.

Photo: Prince Mahidol Award Foundation.

Her Royal Highness Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn, President of Prince Mahidol Foundation, presided over the official award presentation ceremony in on Thursday, 31 January 2019, where laureates have been officially handed over their award. OCV has revolutionised cholera control efforts in Africa, the Middle East, Haiti, and Asia, have saved and continues to save countless lives among the world’s disadvantaged.

“I am honoured and humbled to have been selected for the Prince Mahidol Award. It is especially meaningful to have received the award for work done with my long-term friend and colleague, Jan Holmgren, and while I am serving as executive director of the icddr,b, where the oral cholera vaccine story began,” says Prof Clemens.

Holmgren (L) of icddr,b Scientific Advisory Group and Clemens (R) have collaborated for over three decades. Photo: Sabin Vaccine Institute

Prof Jan Holmgren seconds him noting that it was indeed a great honour to receive this prestigious award, joining the list of outstanding scientists who have previously been given this award for their often tremendous achievements in public health.

"It is indeed a great honour to receive this prestigious award and be joining the list of outstanding scientists who have previously been given this award for their often tremendous achievements in public health.

It is a special privilege to share this award with my close friend Professor John Clemens, whom I have collaborated with (and learnt vaccine epidemiology from) for 35 years.

It is also a pleasure to acknowledge with profound gratitude the long-standing collaboration I have had also with many other scientists both in Sweden and abroad, and to especially recognise the support from many collaborators at icddr,b in Bangladesh, in Vietnam and in India, which has been pivotal for our now so honourably awarded work on oral cholera vaccines."

Clemens and Holmgren talk about their work in the short documentary 'The Fight Against Cholera' 

Associated with icddr,b for long, Prof Holmgren and Clemens’ work since the early 1980s helped the development, licensure and global endorsement of OCV.

icddr,b Board of Trustees chair Prof Maxine Whittaker says congratulating the scientists,

“We are honoured that Prof Clemens and Holmgren have been recognised for their enormous contribution. This is not only an honour for icddr,b but also for the people of Bangladesh in recognising the crucial role they have played in OCV development, a vaccine which has gone on to save many lives, most recently among the entire population of Forcibly Displaced Myanmar Nationals in the Rohingya camps in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh.”

Photo: Sabin Vaccine Institute

In 2017, Prof Holmgren was awarded Albert B Sabin Gold Medal Award in recognition of his pioneering work in mucosal immunology and leadership in the development of world’s first OCV.