By Zainab Abou Elkhair
CAIRO: The Academy of Scientific Research and Technology awarded professor Hassan Azzazy the National Excellence Prize in Advanced Technological Science.
Azzazy, who is a professor and chair of the chemistry department at the American University in Cairo (AUC), is the founder of Novel Diagnostics and Therapeutics, a research group whose groundbreaking developments in nanogold diagnostic assays for detection of the Hepatitis C virus.
“This achievement has been published in international journals and conferences and was cited twice in the prestigious Nature magazine in 2011. I have also filed three separate patent applications related to this technology with the US Patent and Trademark Office,” he said
Of the award, Azzazy said, it is “very significant because it recognizes my research efforts that combine nanotechnology and biotechnology concepts and tools to develop innovative diagnostic and therapeutic solutions for infectious diseases.”
The award distinguishes scientist who have performed exceptionally in applied scientific research. Recipients are assessed according to the number and the impact of their scientific publications over the past five years.
Scientists are also evaluated through their professional activities including workshops and conferences, community outreach, administrative duties and their contribution to the infrastructure of science and technology.
Azzazy has published 16 articles over the past five years, all of which appeared in international peer-reviewed journals. In 2008, he received the AUC Excellence in Research Award, and in 2010 he was the recipient of AUC’s Excellence in Teaching Award.
Azzazy and his team are working on several projects which have received international acclaim and support, including funding from the Qatar National Research Foundation and a major American diagnostic company. The projects are centered on the development and optimization of advanced versions of nanogold diagnostic assays for the detection of Hepatitis C and tuberculosis.
His “research team is also developing smart drug nanocarriers to treat tuberculosis. This research is carried out in collaboration with researchers at Vrije University in Amsterdam and the National Institute for Material Sciences in Tokyo,” he said.
Progress on the development of new drugs to prevent entry of the Hepatitis C virus into liver cells has also been marked by Azzazy and his team in collaboration with researchers at Mayo Clinic Foundation and the University of California Davis.
As scientific research and technology has been declared a national priority by Egypt’s prime minister, Azzazy envisages a bright future for Egypt’s advancement and global competitiveness in the field.
The state has increased the research and development budget by 50 percent, indicating a growth in the GDP expenditure on R&D from 0.2 percent to 0.3 percent.
Although Azzazy wished to have seen a growth of up to 1-2 percent, he says this is a good start.
Developments of projects such as the Zewail City for Science and Technology and serious consideration for plans such as Farouk El-Baz’s Nile project as well as other innovative initiatives are indicative of positive advancements for Egypt, he said.
Azzazy shared with Daily News Egypt his vision of a center for R&D at every university, in each governorate of Egypt. With appropriate funding and proper recruitment of professionals, these centers would promote science and innovation, empowering universities nationwide to produce world class scientists who can, in return, significantly contribute to the development of Egypt in the scientific field.
Such centers would allow for prototypes to be created, as Azzazy and his team have focused on doing for the past years and will continue doing in the future.
According to Azzazy, while a lot is to be achieved in the long run, much can be realized in the short term.
The AUC professor sees “young entrepreneurs setting up small to medium sized enterprises in the field of technology and innovation, materializing ideas into prototypes, as one of the achievable short term accomplishments.”