<img alt=“azzazy_bg.jpg” align=right src=“http://blogs.nature.com/houseofwisdom/images/azzazy_bg.jpg” width=“280” height=“203” />The Academy of Scientific Research and Technology in Egypt has awarded the National Excellence Prize in Advanced Technological Sciences to Hassan Azzazy, chemist and associate dean for graduate studies at the American University in Cairo (AUC).
The award recognizes science outreach efforts of the scientist as well as their publications and their impacts. Azzazy has published 16 articles in international peer-reviewed journals over the past 5 years.
“The timing of the award is also special as it comes in the post-revolution era where scientific research has been declared as a national priority. I am also pleased because this award recognizes the efforts of the bright graduate students in my research group,” said Azzazy in a press release announcing the award.
Azzazy and his team have previously pioneered a new method for the rapid detection of Hepatitis C RNA in the bloodstream using gold nanoparticles. Hepatitis C is the largest healthcare burden in Egypt, infecting some 14% of the population there.
Through a significant fund from the Qatar National Research Foundation (QNRF), Azzazy is developing and optimizing a more advanced form of the technique which will be used to diagnose hepatitis C and tuberculosis.
Egypt’s interim government has announced a renewed focus on scientific research, boosting research spending to 0.3% of GDP this year with an overly ambitious vision to reach 2% within five years.
Speaking on a panel on the future of science in post-revolution Egypt at the World Conference of Science Journalists, Azzazy criticized the minimal role that science has played in Egypt for the past few decades, citing few examples of true scientific progress under Mubarak’s regime.
“We need to have something big, especially in research. We do not have any actual scientific research in the public universities in Egypt. If you visit any of them and see the number of research papers published in international peer-reviewed journals it’ll be zero,” said Azzazy.
“Scientific research in Egypt needs a boost because, right now it is in a very position.”
Besides the work on the gold nanoparticle detection technique, Azzazy and his team are also developing smart drug nanocarriers to treat tuberculosis and researching new drugs that may prevent the hepatitis C virus from entering liver cells.