icddr,b vaccine scientist Dr Firdausi Qadri wins the Ramon Magsaysay Award

icddr,b’s senior scientist Dr Firdausi Qadri has been awarded the 2021 Ramon Magsaysay Award, often cited as “Asia’s Nobel Prize.” In a virtual announcement event held on 31 August 2021, the Board of Trustees of the Ramon Magsaysay Award Foundation revealed that four individuals from Bangladesh, Pakistan, Southeast Asia, and the Philippines, and one organization from Indonesia respectively, will receive Asia’s premier prize, the Ramon Magsaysay Award.

Dr Qadri made the decision early on to pursue a career in medical research. In 1988, she joined icddr,b focusing her research on communicable diseases, immunology, vaccine development and clinical trials. Dedicated to science, she believes that finding answers to the health problems in her country will benefit other countries as well.

On receiving this award, Dr Qadri said, "I am overwhelmed and extremely delighted, but also humbled and very thankful to the Ramon Magsaysay Foundation for giving me this honor. I dedicate this award to Bangladesh, to icddr,b the institution that has encouraged me to carry out my work for these long years. I also dedicate this to all to my great teams in Bangladesh and the rest of the world without whose contribution I could not have succeeded. But I am also indebted to my family for supporting me for all these 40 years. I promise to dedicate the rest of my life to public health to improve the world and carry on with my work."

Her most challenging engagements came in the fight against cholera and typhoid, major diseases in Bangladesh and Asian and African countries with poor access to safe water, sanitation, education, and medical care. Dr Qadri stood out as one of the scientific giants in the cholera vaccine field and has had a pivotal role in the clinical development, evaluation, global introduction and advocacy of oral cholera vaccines (OCV). In this, she has also been playing a key role in the development of a typhoid conjugate vaccine (Vi-TCV) for adults, children, and even infants as young as nine months. Under the auspices of the World Health Organization (WHO) and UNICEF, she led a team of experts in the 2017-2020 OCV mass vaccination of Rohingya refugees from Myanmar in Cox's Bazar in Bangladesh, thus preventing a mass cholera outbreak in what is the largest refugee camp in the world. In 2020, she helped facilitate the OCV vaccination of 1.2 million people in six high-risk areas of Dhaka city. Not surprisingly, in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic, Dr. Qadri has been involved in vaccine trials and Covid-19 testing and research in Bangladesh.

In electing Dr Qadri to receive the 2021 Ramon Magsaysay Award, the board of trustees recognizes her passion and life-long devotion to the scientific profession; her vision of building the human and physical infrastructure that will benefit the coming generation of Bangladeshi scientists, women scientists in particular, and her untiring contributions to vaccine development, advanced biotechnological therapeutics and critical research that has been saving millions of precious live.

Dr Tahmeed Ahmed executive director of icddr,b commends Dr Qadri for this wonderful accomplishment and says, ‘’The award comes to Dr Qadri for the decades of impactful research she has done, and I join colleagues at icddr,b to congratulate her  for winning this prestigious award. We are indeed very proud of her and wish her every success in the future.’’

Dr Qadri is also a laureate of the 2020 L’Oréal-Unesco For Women in Science Award for her advocacy of early diagnoses and global vaccination as well as her work on understanding and preventing infectious diseases affecting children in developing countries. Dr Qadri was also awarded the Fondation Christophe et Rodolphe Mérieux's annual scientific 'Grand Prize' in 2012, called the "Christophe Mérieux Prize", for her research on infectious enteric diseases.

She has worked in Bangladesh as a scientist and collaborated with scientists and institutes across the world for more than forty years but has no thought of retiring.