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August 29, 2007

Three N.C. State Researchers Win American Scientist's Bugliarello Prize

RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK, NC - American Scientist magazine has awarded North Carolina State University researchers Fred Gould, Krisztian Magori and Yunxin Huang its first George Bugliarello Prize for their article on "Genetic Strategies for Controlling Mosquito-Borne Diseases," which appeared in the May-June 2006 issue.

The Bugliarello Prize honors a superior interdisciplinary essay, review of research or analytical article published in American Scientist, Sigma Xi's bimonthly magazine of science and engineering. It includes a $5,000 cash award. The winning article was chosen from all articles published in the magazine over the past two and a half years.

"The goal of the Bugliarello Prize is to inspire thoughtful discourse about how technology, human society, our biological needs and the needs of other life on our planet can be advanced," said Rosalind Reid, the magazine's editor.

Gould is a professor in the departments of entomology and genetics at N.C. State. For the past 25 years he has studied how insect pests adapt to human attempts to control them and how humans could design new ways to stymie that adaptation. He is part of teams supported by National Institutes of Health and the Gates Foundation to examine transgenic approaches for taming mosquitoes that transmit dengue virus.

When the article was written, Magori and Huang were both postdoctoral researchers in Gould's lab. Magori now works for Oxitec, a biotech company in Oxford, England. He received his doctorate in biological physics from Eotvos Lorand University in Budapest. Huang received his doctorate in applied mathematics from the University of Utrecht. Both have been developing predictive models to guide research aimed at alleviation of human diseases.

The judges wrote that "Authors Gould, Magori and Huang have earned the Bugliarello Prize with a clear and thoughtful discussion of important research that addresses challenging questions facing global human society. They ask: Can science save millions of lives by sensitively deploying genetic engineering against disease-spreading insects - yet do so without upsetting the ecological balance of the planet? These authors have performed a vital service by articulating the scientific, ethical, social and policy challenges presented by their research into control of mosquito-borne diseases."

In their American Scientist article, the three described laboratory techniques for adding specific genes to the mosquito that make it unable to transmit the parasites that cause malaria or dengue fever. They say it might be possible to cause similar changes in wild mosquitoes.

Recent experiments suggest that genetically altered mosquitoes could offer a realistic solution to the problem of mosquito-borne diseases - provided that some of the large technical hurdles can be overcome.

Malaria infects hundreds of millions of people each year and kills a million of them, mostly small children. There is no vaccine, and treatments are losing efficacy as the parasite evolves to resist their effect.

The Bugliarello Prize is endowed chiefly by gifts from the Teagle and Greenwall foundations honoring George Bugliarello, president emeritus of Polytechnic University in New York and a past president of Sigma Xi. He is a member of the National Academy of Engineering and a founding fellow of the American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering.

American Scientist has been published since 1913 by Sigma Xi, The Scientific Research Society. Each issue features articles written by prominent scientists and engineers, reviewing important work in fields that range from molecular biology to computer engineering.

Sigma Xi is the international honor society of research scientists and engineers, with 520 chapters at colleges and universities, government laboratories and industry research centers. In addition to publishing American Scientist, the non-profit society sponsors a variety of programs that support science and engineering.

Listen to a radio interview with Fred Gould on WUNC’s The State of Things (5 MB)


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