"Lombardy Is Research" international award, worth 1 million euros, was established - under Regional Law 29/2016 and with the resolution of the Regional Council of 21 June 2017 - with the aim of publicly acknowledging the commitment and the talent of an internationally renowned researcher/research team, who with his or her discoveries has contributed to advancing scientific and technological knowledge with important implications for people's lives.
The award amount is 1 million euros, even larger than the amount awarded for the Nobel Prize, and is the first recognition of its kind focused on research and innovation, and in particular the Life Sciences, will be awarded on the anniversary on 8 November 2018, on "Research Day" established by the Lombardy Region with regional law 29/16. In addition, a sculpture will be also awarded to the final winner, commissioned by the Veronesi Foundation, which will represent the philosophy of its founder, Umberto Veronesi.
The Lombardy Region has decided to entrust the selection of the winner of the award to a jury of 15 top scientists. The names have been selected from the respective fields from those in the official list of "Top Italian Scientists" of the VIA-Academy, which assesses both the productivity and the impact of a person's cultural or scientific work based on citations received.
These 15 will be joined each year by the winner of the previous edition. Therefore, in 2018 Professor Giacomo Rizzolatti - winner of the first edition of the Award in 2017 - will join the jury. This is the international team that will select the winner from the 10 discoveries that have obtained the highest number of candidates.
Here are the names and profiles of the members of the jury for the 2018 edition:
The jury held its first meeting on 19 February 2018.
As established by the pertinent resolution of the regional council of 12 January, the 2018 edition of the Prize remains dedicated to Life Sciences, but within them it focuses particularly on precision medicine, the true frontier of current biomedical research. Seven specific research areas from which to select the winner: Biomedical Sciences, Clinical Sciences, Neurosciences & Psychology, Chemistry, Computer Sciences, Materials & Nano Sciences, Natural & Environmental Sciences.
Three primary requirements entitle participation in the award: originality, innovative strength and scientific impact of research work; position in the international scientific landscape; potential for the development of research work with particular reference to the impact on quality of life.
According to the rules established in January 2018 by the regional council, self-candidatures are not allowed. The "Lombardy Is Research" prize is open to active scientists and can be awarded to a single person or to a research group. The nominations for the award can be presented by all the scientists included in the list of "top Italian scientists" of each of the areas specified (excluding the scientists participating in the Jury) if they have an H-index equal to or greater than 50. New for this second edition is the possibility to propose candidates by the major national, European and international Academies, institutions and scientific societies.
Also new in 2018 is the € 64,000 prize for students in high school and vocational education and training through the regional call, open from 7 to 18 May. Students must produce a working prototype of an invention related to the areas specified by the Region.
The award of the 2017 edition, dedicated to the subject of Life Sciences, was given to the neurologist Giacomo Rizzolatti, director of the CNR Research Unit at the University of Parma, author of the discovery of mirror neurons, considered the "Neurophysiological" basis of empathy and therefore of sociality. The award entitles the winner to 30% of the winnings, while 70% must be used for research in the Lombardy region.
In detail, part of the grant was used to purchase cutting-edge equipment for the neurosurgery team at the Niguarda Hospital. This is the hospital where Professor Rizzolatti has long been conducting research on the brains of patients suffering from epilepsy. The rest of the funds will be used to finance scholarships for CNR researchers.
Reasons for the award "The prize is awarded for the discovery of mirror neurons and the mirror function of our central nervous system. These mechanisms are the neurological substrate for recognising ourselves in people, in the attitudes and movements of those we deal with. The mirror function constitutes the neurological basis of empathy and the ability to communicate deeply among human beings. The discovery of mirror neurons has contributed deeply to the understanding of the functioning of our central nervous system and has had a cross-cutting impact on areas including psychology, neurology and robotics, to the understanding of our social behaviour as human beings. The discovery of these neurological circuits has opened up and will increasingly open the way for the treatment of behavioural pathologies, like autism spectrum disorder. It is therefore expected that this discovery will lead to further innovative approaches to serious problems of well-being and human health".
President of the Jury:
Alberto Mantovani of Humanitas, winner of the European Oncology Award 2016 and Robert Koch Award 2016.
The work of the Jury was also be supported by Professor Pier Giuseppe Pelicci, Director of the European Institute of Oncology, as a representative of the Scientific Committee of the Regional Foundation for Biomedical Research.