China-only science prize honours pathologist and experimental physicist

From Nature:

L: Yuk Ming Dennis Lo. R: Qi-Kun Xue

The work by Dennis Lo (left) led to blood tests for foetus abnormalities. Qi-Kun Xue discovered an exotic behaviour of electrons in materials held at very low temperatures.

The first winners of a prize devoted exclusively to scientific discoveries made in China were announced on 19 September in Beijing.

The Future Forum, a non-profit organization established last year in Beijing, announced that pathologist Dennis Ming Yuk Lo of Chinese University of Hong Kong won the life science Future Science Prize for the discovery that DNA from a foetus can be extracted from the mother’s blood. The discovery led to the now-widely-used non-invasive tests to screen a pregnant woman’s blood to see if the foetus has disorders such as Down’s syndrome. Shenzhen-based BGI alone has carried out more than 1 million screens based on the finding.

Qi-Kun Xue of Tsinghua University in Beijing netted the physics prize for the experimental discovery of high-temperature superconductivity at the interfaces of materials1 and the quantized anomalous Hall effect2 — an unusual orderly motion of electrons in a conductor at low temperature. That line of work belongs in the fast-emerging field of topological insulators. Each prize is worth US$1 million.

Xue says that he will “share the money with my colleagues who made significant contribution to the two discoveries”. Lo says he hasn’t had time to think about what to do with the money, but that he will start by using some of it to invite family, friends and long-time collaborators to the prize ceremony in January in Beijing. “Everything happened so rapidly today,” says Lo. The prizes were announced at 3 pm local time at a press conference in Beijing.

Organizers stress that the prize, funded by Robin Li, chief executive of China’s giant …

Continue Reading