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TWAS Newsletter
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Bangladeshi immunologist wins the C.N.R. Rao Prize

Bangladeshi immunologist wins the C.N.R. Rao Prize

Firdausi Qadri, director of the Centre for Vaccine Sciences at the International Centre for Diarrhoeal Disease Research in Bangladesh, is the recipient of the 2013 C.N.R. Rao Prize, one of the awards conferred annually by TWAS, the world academy of sciences for the advancement of science in developing countries.

The Prize, named after TWAS founding fellow and former president C.N.R. Rao, will be awarded during a ceremony on 1 October, in Buenos Aires, where TWAS is holding its annual General Meeting. Qadri will give a lecture on her research activity Wednesday 2 October.

Qadri has been selected for significant contributions she gave to the field in almost 30 years of work on enteric diseases, and for her studies aimed at developing new strategies for mass immunization against some common infectious disease in developing countries, particularly in Bangladesh.

Her career began in 1981, as an assistant professor at University of Dhaka. With a PhD in biochemistry obtained from the University of Liverpool and a specialization in immunology and infectious disease, Qadri soon developed a profound interest for children hypo-responsiveness to natural infections in developing countries. Natural pathogens such as Vibrio cholerae and toxin-producing strains of Escherichia coli (shortened as ETEC) cause major health problems, especially in Bangladesh. According to recent reports, every year 100,000 to 300,000 people die of ETEC diarrhea and over 100,000 of cholera.

By taking into account nutritional, genetics, and environmental factors, Qadri was able to bring new insight into the immunological basis of natural infections, shedding light on the reasons that determine poor response to vaccines in young children.

“We understand that nutrition and poor hygienic conditions can concur to determine enhanced susceptibility to infectious disease,” she points out. This observation was fully confirmed by an ongoing investigation she has been conducing on children aged 0-2 years of age, living in an urban area in Bangladesh, which proved that insufficient immune response that children exhibited are  due to lack of adequate nutritional factors and repeated infections. The project, “Introduction of Cholera Vaccine in Bangladesh”, which foresees the introduction of a low-cost oral vaccine along with an information campaign on safe water and hand washing practices and measures, is funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

Following her intuition in another effort to defeat these diseases, she has studied three different pathogens – V. cholerae, ETEC and Salmonella Typhi/Paratyphi – as models to examine and compare the immune responses induced by vaccines. Again, these studies have been instrumental to rising awareness on the importance of vaccination campaigns in Bangladesh, a goal Qadri has been actively pursuing for years.

In recent years, Qadri has also developed a new technique using ALS (standing for antibodies in lymphocyte supernatant) fluid, to diagnose typhoid and paratyphoid fever which is known as the TPTest. Typhoid fever has been commonly treated with antibiotics. Unfortunately, half of the cases have now become resistant, leading to high rates of mortality (up to 30% infected cases). Targets of this infectious disease are young school age children but also adults. “New treatment methods and diagnostics are, indeed, essential,” said Qadri, “and urges the medical community to devise effective typhoid vaccines,” as well as to use ones that are presently available. The technique she came up with well applies to developing countries, as it is inexpensive and quick to perform and is specific for enteric fever.

During her career, Qadri has always sought cooperation with national and international organizations, stakeholders and partners from the United States, Sweden, France and Japan and Bangladesh. She is a member of advisory committees of the World Health Organization, and on many other international advisory panels.

She has been awarded with a number of prizes, including the Gold Medal from the Bangladesh Academy of Sciences, in 2008; and the Institut de France’s and Rodolphe Mérieux Foundation ‘Grand Prize’ 2012. Qadri has been a TWAS member since 2011.

Qadri has authored more than 200 peer-reviewed scientific papers and has also provided support and mentoring to young scientists, currently overseeing a staff of more than 370 researchers.

The CNR Rao prize carries a cash award of USD5,000. It is designed to honour distinguished scientists from the developing world who have made significant contributions to global science.


Indian scientist CNR Rao, Linus Pauling research professor and honorary president of the Jawaharlal Nehru Center for Advanced Scientific Research, is one of the founding members of TWAS, in 1983, and its immediate past president. He is also one of the of pioneering scientists who propelled the emerging field of solid state chemistry to the forefront of global science. Particularly noted for his research on metal oxides, nanomaterials and graphene, Rao has published 45 books, and more than 1,500 articles. More recently, he has written several children’s books designed to spur interest in science among young people.

TWAS – The World Academy of Sciences for the advancement of science in developing countries – meets in Buenos Aires from 1 to 4 October, for its annual General Meeting. More than 300 researchers, top science policy officials and educators are expected to attend the event, which this year marks the Academy’s 30th anniversary. They will engage in discussions and hear presentations on a range of critically important issues, including innovation in Latin America, cancer research in Africa, membrane-based technology for environmental protection, biotechnology for agriculture, and the social science of poverty, exploring new research and compelling challenges in science and technology.