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An Indian chemist and a Mexican biologist were each awarded the Trieste Science Prize last week (26 April).

Administered by the Academy of Sciences for the Developing World, the annual Trieste Science Prize celebrates scientists from the developing world whose achievements have made "an enormous impact on international science".

The winners were Luis Rafael Herrera-Estrella, professor of plant genetic engineering at the Centre of Research and Advanced Studies in Irapuato, Mexico, and Goverdhan Mehta, honorary professor of organic chemistry at the Indian Institute of Science in Bangalore.

Herrera-Estrella was honoured for pioneering plant biotechnology techniques used in the commercial production of genetically modified plants. 

The plants are now grown on more than 100 million hectares of farmland worldwide, and include asparagus, maize, papaya and beans ― all crop species important to Latin America's economy. 

"Doing high quality science in developing countries is far more difficult than in developed countries," Herrera-Estrella told SciDev.Net.

"Recognition from important awards such as the Trieste Science Prize are very important in making politicians aware that in spite of the difficulties, scientists in developing countries have the skills and expertise to produce first class science."

He is now working to understand how plants adapt to nutrient-deficient soils, such as the 500 million hectares of phosphorus-poor farmland in Latin America.

Goverdhan Mehta was recognized for significant advances he has made in the synthesis of organic compounds. 

Anti-cancer drugs and carbon compounds with potential applications in nanotechnology devices are among the dozen complex molecules and 50 biologically active products that Mehta's group have synthesised.

As president of the International Council for Science in Paris, Mehta is now actively promoting international collaboration in science, particularly on issues relating to sustainable development.

He also plays a key role in developing science education and policy in India as a member of the country's Scientific Advisory Committee.

The Trieste Science Prize, now in its third year, honours outstanding scientists who have not yet been awarded other international prizes for scientific achievement.

The prize, financed by coffee company illycaffè, includes a US$50,000 cash award. Previous prize recipients have been from Brazil, China, India and Taiwan.

Herrera-Estrella and Mehta will receive their awards at a ceremony in Trieste, Italy, this month (17 May).

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