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Professor Ding-Shinn Chen and colleges' achievements are recognized
by the Tokyo Nikkei Asia Prize, 2010

Professor Ding-Shinn Chen was born in 1943, graduated from National Taiwan University School of Medicine in 1968. He received his training in internal medicine in National Taiwan University Hospital (1969-73) and became a Lecturer in the same department in 1975 under the mentorship of Professor Juei-Low Sung. He studied the relationship of hepatitis B virus and liver cancer in National Cancer Center Research Institute, Tokyo in 1975, and in US National Institutes of Health in 1979-80. Dr. Chen was promoted to Professor of Medicine in 1983. He served as the Dean of the College of Medicine, National Taiwan University from 2001 to 2007. Currently, he is the Distinguished Chair Professor of Medicine in his alma mater since 2006.

Because of Dr. Chen and colleagues' outstanding research on liver disease, he was elected Academician, Academia Sinica in 1992; Member, Third World Academy of Sciences (TWAS), 2001; Foreign Associate, US National Academy of Sciences, 2005. Dr. Chen is a leader in medicine locally and internationally. He was the Chairman of Taiwan Association for the Study of the Liver (TASL, 1996-98); President of the Gastroenterological Society of Taiwan (1997-2003); President of the Formosan Medical Association (2001-04); President of the International Association for the Study of the Liver (IASL, 2004-06). Dr. Chen is a prolific physician scientist, up to the present, he has published 618 original articles. He also served frequently as the reviewer of major international journals in hepatology and gastroenterology. In 2001-06, he served as the Associate Editor of HEPATOLOGY, the top journal of its discipline. At present, he is the Associate Editor of Journal of Biomedical Sciences as well as Molecular Carcinogenesis. Dr. Chen is on the Editorial Board of several journals of his expertise. He has had many prestigious awards, to count just a few important ones, Trieste Science Prize (2006 from TWAS); the Presidential Science Prize (2007, Taiwan); International Recognition Award (European Association for the Study of the Liver, 2009). This time, professor Chen and collegues' achievements are recognized by the Nikkei Asia Prize, given to him on May 19, 2010 in Tokyo, Japan.

In the last three decades, Dr. Ding-Shinn Chen led a team in National Taiwan University Hospital and had achieved significantly in the control of hepatitis B and C which are prevalent worldwide, especially in Asia.

In 1970s, using sensitive immunoassays, Chen and colleagues found a very high prevalence of persistent hepatitis B virus (HBV) infection in the Taiwanese patients with chronic hepatitis, hepatic cirrhosis and hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC). Up to 80-90% of them and 15-20% of the healthy people in Taiwan had chronic HBV infection. They also documented the important role of mother-to-infant transmission in chronic HBV infection. Geographic distributions of the subtypes of HBV also implied the role of maternal transmission. Maternal transmission perpetuated the persistent HBV infection from generation to generation. Dr. Chen also documented the association of HBV with HCC at molecular levels by showing the integration of HBV DNA to the host genome in HCC tissues of his patients, and demonstrated the key role of maternal transmitted HBV in causing HCC in Taiwan. These results laid the foundation of understanding the viral etiology of liver diseases and HCC in Taiwan, and, more constructively, pointed out the directions of possible interventions.

Because of his background as a physician, he and colleagues then worked very hard in the control of hepatitis B. Dr. Chen led in planning and helping implementation of a mass immunization program against HBV infection in Taiwan. After three years of preparation, the national program was launched in 1984 with newborns as the primary target. The implementation was smooth and they evaluated the program on regular basis. The program, the earliest in the world, was found to be extremely successful and the efficacy in preventing chronic HBV infection in children was around 85%. Chronic HBV infection decreased from 10-15% before vaccination to less than 1% after the program was implemented. Nevertheless, the ultimate goal of the vaccination program should be in the decrease of chronic liver disease and HCC. Indeed, Chen and colleagues were able to demonstrate a 75%-decrease of HCC in children who had received hepatitis B immunization in the national program. These achievements have a great impact on HBV control not only in Taiwan but also in other parts of the world, especially Asia. Because more than two billion people have been infected by HBV worldwide, and at least 360 million suffer from chronic HBV infection, of them, three fourths are Asians! The successful example in Taiwan has set a model for other countries to follow, especially for Asian countries. According to the World Health Organization, Asian countries had performed very well among the five continents in hepatitis B immunization. Not surprisingly, Chen is strongly advocating universal hepatitis B vaccination in the world.

Despite the effective control of hepatitis B by vaccination, the existing HBV carriers cannot be benefited by it. Chen and colleagues' persuit of the natural history of chronic HBV infection continued, as shown by their collaboration with epidemiologists on the risk of cirrhosis and HCC stratified by HBV replication and viral load. At the mean time, Chen and colleagues also created experimental animal models for the study of HBV and HCC.

Dr. Chen's efforts and contributions also extend to hepatitis C virus (HCV), he and colleagues investigated the role of HCV in liver disease in Taiwan and found that HCV was also important, only second to HBV in causing cirrhosis and HCC. They then cloned and sequenced the local HCV genome. The basic work soon led to screening blood donors with HCV antibodies in Taiwan in 1992, reducing post-transfusion hepatitis C remarkably. As to the treatment of those already infected by HCV, Chen and colleagues also made tremendous contributions in developing a new and effective therapy, by combining ribavirin with interferon alfa. About half of those treated with this new regimen were cured after a course of six-month therapy. The results were later confirmed by many other investigators, and the combination therapy has now evolved to become the treatment of choice worldwide.

In summary, Dr. Chen has contributed in defining HBV as the major etiology of chronic liver disease and HCC. His and colleagues' efforts culminated in a national control program that included mass immunization in Taiwan since early 1980s. The program is proven extremely effective in preventing chronic HBV infection and has resulted in subsequent decrease of HCC in the vacinees. This is first time in history that a human cancer is prevented by vaccination, and this is a milestone in the control of HBV infection in mankind. Dr. Chen and colleagues also pioneered a new regimen that cures chronic hepatitis C. Dr. Chen's achievements have a positive impact in the control of virus-induced chronic liver diseases and HCC which is one of the most common cancers, particularly in Asia.

Chinese version