Securing the quality and quantity of the world’s food supply is an issue of global importance, and this year’s ASPIRE award honored young scientists for their important research in this field. Top honors went to Dr. Hua Kuang, a Professor at Jiangnan University’s School of Food Science and Technology in Wuxi, China, for her work in the development of low-cost biosensors that detect food sanitation hazards.
The global population is about 7.3 billion, according to the United Nations Population Fund. It is expected to rise to 9.6 billion by 2050, placing a potentially calamitous strain upon the Earth’s already limited resources. Feeding such a massive amount of people on an ever more crowded planet will require global cooperation among governments, researchers, NGOs and the industrial sector, particularly in the Asia-Pacific region, as middle-class consumption grows.
Yet urbanization is reducing agricultural land per capita, and climate change is threatening yields and future food supplies. As such, safe, sustainable food production is fundamental to ensuring long-term global health and well-being. It is also one of the top 10 UN Sustainable Development Goals.
Dr. Kuang’s patented technologies have been widely marketed and used to improve food safety for hundreds of millions of people in China and other countries. She has authored numerous papers and holds 22 food analysis patents. In China, over 80 percent of mycotoxin immunoassay strips used to test for foodborne toxins are based on her innovations that were developed in partnership with researchers in other APEC nations. Dr. Kuang says she believes it is critical to understand the unique hazards involved in food production in order to promote effective food safety. “We are making important strides in our efforts to apply new food safety detection technologies in the Asia-Pacific,” she said. “The key is for the scientific community to continue to work together to take this undertaking forward to more fully capture the benefits.”
The annual APEC Science Prize for Innovation, Research and Education (ASPIRE) Prize is administered by the APEC Policy Partnership for Science, Technology and Innovation (PPSTI). Its goal is to recognize outstanding cross-border research by scientists under 40 years of age. This year’s 12 ASPIRE finalists were nominated for their innovative food security solutions, which include genetics research to enhance plant breeding, development of advanced detection technologies that boost food safety, and irrigation and hydropower improvements that protect fisheries production.
As this year’s ASPIRE Prize winner, Dr. Kuang received a cash prize of $25,000 sponsored by Elsevier and fellow scholarly publisher Wiley and was recognized for her accomplishments at a recent ceremony in Lima, Peru. The award was presented by Dr. Gisella Orjeda, President of the Peruvian National Council for Science, Technology and Technological Innovative (CONCYTEC), presented the award along with Lawrence J. Gumbiner, Deputy Chief of Mission at the US Embassy in Lima, and Hao Qinmei, Economic and Commercial Counsellor of the Chinese Embassy in Peru. It was part of the eighth annual APEC PPSTI meeting of officials and private sector representatives aimed at establishing more innovation-friendly conditions in the region.
The emergence of world-class research from Asia-Pacific countries signals a new era in global scientific research. The 2015 co-winner of the Nobel Prize in Medicine, Dr. Youyou Tu of the China Academy of Traditional Chinese Medicine in Beijing is the first winner of a Nobel prize to have spent all her life and career in China with no overseas research or study experiences. In addition, according to Scopus data, APEC research institutions published more than 950,000 papers in 2015, an increase of over 100 percent over the past 10 years.
APEC nations, some of which are among the world’s most populous, have a keen interest in developing safe, sustainable food supplies and supporting greater policy collaboration by the region’s governments and private sector. “Dr Kuang’s innovative and accessible detection technologies are proving to be a real breakthrough for protection against foodborne diseases,” said Dr. Orjeda. “Her work demonstrates the crucial role cross-border research is playing to ensure safe, secure food supplies and which is being led by a new era of scientists in the Asia-Pacific.”
“Dr Kuang’s research has the potential to save lives and curb the negative economic consequences that come with food insecurity,” said Elsevier Chairman Youngsuk “YS” Chi. “We are inspired by the contribution of this year’s ASPIRE winner and her fellow nominees in the creation of knowledge that brings new hope.”
2016 ASPIRE Prize finalists
The APEC Science Prize for Innovation, Research and Education (ASPIRE) is an annual award sponsored by Elsevier and Wiley. The Prize recognizes young scientists who have demonstrated a commitment to excellence in scientific research and collaboration with scientists in the region. This year nominees are 12 rising stars from Australia, Chile, China, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Japan, Korea, Malaysia, Peru, The Philippines, Russia and the United States, all of whom currently work in a wide range of disciplines that contribute to the 2016 ASPIRE theme of “Technologies for Food Security.” Here is an overview of this year’s nominees and their outstanding research.
The Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) is a regional economic forum established in 1989 to leverage the growing interdependence of the Asia-Pacific. APEC's 21 members aim to create greater prosperity for the people of the region by promoting balanced, inclusive, sustainable, innovative and secure growth and by accelerating regional economic integration. APEC’s Policy Partnership on Science, Technology and Innovation was formed in 2012. Its mission is to “support the development of science and technology cooperation as well as effective science, technology, and innovation policy recommendations in APEC through collaboration between government, academia, private sector and other APEC fora.”