The 10th edition of the European Inventors Awards which are presented annually by the European Patent Office in co-operation with the European Commission has been held in Paris.
An international jury drawn from industry, science and the media selected 15 finalists from hundreds of applicants.
The Lifetime Achievement Award went to the Swiss inventor Andreas Manz who was honoured for the invention of the microlab chip technology. Thanks to his work it is now possible to conduct complex medical, biological or chemical analyses quickly and efficiently on microchips no bigger than just a few millimeters in size.
Lab-on-a-chip technology promises to revolutionize in-field monitoring and diagnosis. Future uses might include inexpensive, fast testing in remote, impoverished areas which are difficult to access for endemic and pandemic diseases.
Among other diseases research is already being carried out for diagnosis of HIV and malaria.
“Basically the advantage of lab-on-a-chip is that in a small space everything goes faster. This is called scaling law. Take for example an elephant; the way the elephant walks is like…..very slowly. A mouse, a tiny mouse goes fast…And it’s the same with our molecules, so basically on a small system, on a microchip, the analysis will be much faster,” explained the inventor.
The invention of a gene-based tissue test which makes it possible to offer targeted treatment for breast cancer won the prize in the Small Medium Enterprises category for Laura van’t Veer from the Netherlands.
The MammaPrint determines a patient’s risk of metastasis. The technology, introduced in 2007 has already helped over 40,000 women with treatment for cancer and means that now 20 to 30 percent fewer women have to undergo lengthy chemotherapy.
“Women can forego chemotherapy if the risk of recurrence is low, which means they don’t have to suffer all the side effects and be out of their daily life for up to a year and for women who need chemotherapy it will be based on their personalized “Mammaprint” test result,”
Austrian Franz Amtmann and Philippe Maugars from France won the award for their contribution to the development to Near Field Communication (NCF) – a contact-free, secure technology for data transfer between mobile devices.
The invention opens up an almost unlimited range of new possibilities for mobile devices enabling smartphones for example to be used in future as virtual wallets, controls for smart homes and access to secure areas.
“If you have stored a metro ticket in your phone, you enter the Paris metro, but suddenly the battery of your phone is dead. With NFC you can still get out, because the ticket can be retrieved by the infrastructure of the metro, which is definitely not possible with Bluetooth or Wi-Fi,” explained Philippe Maugars.
“It works also with passive devices, meaning having no battery. You simply touch it and immediately it pops up the internet address which was stored on the tag,” added Franz Amtmann.
In other awards Ludwik Leibler from France was honoured in the category “Research” for the invention of a new class of recyclable plastics. Ian Frazer from Australia and the late Jian Zhou received the Popular Prize for their invention of the world’s first vaccine against cervical cancer.