Technology & Science

Millennium prize nominees announced

DNA fingerprinting, a drug release method, a fibre-network amplifier and a communications algorithm are the finalists for the 2008 Millennium Technology Prize, the world's largest prize for technology.

DNA fingerprinting, a drug release method, a fibre-network amplifier and a communications algorithm are the finalists for the 2008 Millennium Technology Prize, the world's largest prize for technology.

The nominees, announced Tuesday by the Technology Academy Finland, are Sir Alec Jeffreys, Robert Langer, Andrew Viterbi and jointly, Emmanual Desurvire, Randy Giles and David Payne.

Technology Academy Finland, an independent foundation set up by Finnish industry in partnership with the Finnish government, awards the prize every second year to a technological innovation that "significantly improves the quality of human life, today and in the future."

Since its inception in 2004, prize winners have been web pioneer Tim Berners-Lee and Shuji Nakamura, the inventor of blue, green and white light-emitting diodes (LEDs) and the blue laser diode.

The winner this year will get 800,000 euros, about $1,275,000 Cdn. Runners-up will each be awarded 115,000 euros, or just over $183,000 Cdn.

Jeffreys, a professor at the United Kingdom's University of Leicester, invented DNA fingerprinting, which is now used to identify criminal suspects and in paternity and immigration disputes.

"No other development in modern genetics has had such a profound impact worldwide on the lives of many millions of people," the committee said in a release.

Harvard-MIT professor Langer is nominated for his innovations in controlled drug release and tissue regeneration. He created methods to deliver drugs through the skin without needles or other invasive methods. The committee said his work in drug-releasing polymers also led to a new brain cancer treatment.

"His work has also brought about significant advances in tissue engineering, including synthetic replacement for biological tissues," the committee said, adding his work has saved and improved the lives of millions of people.  

Viterbia, the president of wireless communications advising and investing firm Viterbi Group LLC and a professor emeritus at the University of Southern California, is nominated for the Viterbi algorithm, which the committee described as "the key building element in modern wireless and digital communications systems, touching lives of people everywhere."

The algorithm is used by mobile phone networks to eliminate noise. It's also used in computers, high capacity MP3 players, speech recognition, DNA analysis and communications in space.

Joint nominees Desurvire, director of the Physics Research Group at Thales Corporate Research and Technology in France, Giles, the director of New Jersey's Optical Network, Bell Laboratories, and Payne, director of the Optoelectronics Research Centre at the UK's University of Southampton, were tapped for the invention of the erbium-doped fibre amplifier (EDFA), a device that amplifies degraded telephone and internet signals.

The committee said their contributions "made possible the global high-capacity optical fibre network, serving as a backbone of the global information superhighway."

The winner will be announced June 11 at a ceremony in Finland.

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