Professor Samir K Saha, Head of Microbiology of Dhaka Shishu Hospital and Executive Director of Child Health Research Foundation (CHRF), along with Dr. Shahida Hasnain from Pakistan, has won the 2017 Carlos J. Finlay UNESCO Prize for Microbiology for their outstanding contribution to microbiology and its applications. On the 6th of November the Cuban Minister of Science, Technology and Environment, Elba Rosa Pérez Montoya, presided over the award ceremony at the headquarters of the international organization in the French capital, Paris.
The award ceremony – held within the framework of the Natural Sciences Commission of the 39th General Conference – was also chaired by Mr. Getachew Engida, Deputy Director General of UNESCO; Ms. Flavia Schlegel, Assistant Deputy Director General for the Natural Sciences Sector.
Dr. Saha was named a laureate for his lifelong dedication to generate scientific evidence in the field of clinical microbiology and thus aid institution of informed policy decisions to save lives. Throughout his career, Dr. Saha has architected sustainable models for conducting high-quality research on infectious diseases in settings with minimal resources, where they are needed the most. Besides capacity-building, he has played noteworthy roles in translating evidence gathered by his team into policies that directly impact children’s lives.
Dr. Samir Saha has broken the vicious cycle of limited resources that lead to lack of data required for evidence-based policy decisions, which lead back to limited resources. His contributions led to introductions of two important vaccines against bacteria that cause childhood meningitis, directly saving lives of thousands of children in the country. His work and successful research models in Bangladesh have begun to spill over into other developing countries.
The UNESCO Carlos J. Finlay Prize was established at the initiative of the Republic of Cuba in 1977 and conferred on the first occasion in 1980, with the aim of recognizing outstanding personalities, institutions or non-governmental organizations that have made an exceptional contribution in the field of microbiology and its applications. The laurel perpetuates the memory of Cuban scientist Carlos J. Finlay, who in harsh conditions made an important contribution to microbiology and epidemiology, when he discovered the Aedes Aegipty mosquito as a transmitting agent of the yellow fever virus.
The event was also attended by the President of the Science Commission, Dr. El Tayeb Mustafa, representatives of the delegations of the winners, other UNESCO member delegations present at the sessions of this 39th Conference, staff of the Secretariat of the sector of Sciences, friends of Cuba, as well as the ambassadors of the Island to UNESCO and France, together with the personnel of both diplomatic missions.