Novel battery, cancer vaccine among European inventor award winners | Science | In-depth reporting on science and technology | DW | 21.06.2022

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Novel battery, cancer vaccine among European inventor award winners

The 2022 winners of one of Europe's most prestigious innovation awards have been revealed. Some of the highlights included upgraded batteries and cancer vaccines.

A liquid battery technology, therapeutic vaccines for cancer, metal-eating plants and optimized curved graphene material were some of the inventions honored at this year's European Inventor awards.

The contest, held Tuesday, is one of Europe's most prestigious for innovation.

Along with some miscellaneous prizes, awards are granted in five categories: Industry, research, inventors outside the EU, inventors at smaller companies and young inventors.

Katalin Karikó (HU/US), winner of the European Inventor Award 2022 in the category Lifetime Achievement

Katalin Karikó's contributions to mRNA therapies helped make the development of Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna's COVID-19 mRNA vaccines possible.

Innovative ideas

MIT professor and chemist Donald Sadoway's liquid metal battery technology won in the category honoring scientists from non-European countries.

Unlike existing batteries, Sadoway's invention is made from locally sourced, reusable metals and can be recharged for years without losing capacity.

This technology could reduce the costs of energy storage for solar and wind power, which are key for reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

Winners of the small enterprise award included a Swiss team that invented a platform to produce therapeutic vaccines to treat cancer. The network is called KISIMA, which means ”well” in Swahili.

While common vaccines are given before an illness for the sake of prevention, therapeutic vaccines treat people who are already ill. Members of the team previously owned the company AMAL Therapeutics, which was acquired by Boehringer Ingelheim in 2019 for €425 million.

They have already started clinical trials on humans for their colorectal cancer vaccine.

Madiha Derouazi (CH), Elodie Belnoue (FR) and team, nominated for the European Inventor Award 2022 in the category SMEs

Madiha Derouazi (right) and Elodie Belnoue, winners in the small enterprise category for their therapeutic cancer vaccine technology.

BioNTech's senior vice president Katalin Karikó was awarded the Lifetime Achievement award. Over the course of her career, the Hungarian-American biochemist was a key player in the development of mRNA vaccines.

Together with American Drew Weissman, Karikó patented a method to prevent RNA from inducing an immune response, which is essential for mRNA vaccines to work.

The technology has been used by Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna for COVID-19 vaccines.

Young inventors

The Young Inventor award winners were the only ones to receive money for their achievements. The first-place prize of €20,000 was jointly awarded to the inventors of an artificial intelligence-based waste recognition and sorting system and an AI-based early Parkinson's detection system.

The second place prize went to the inventor of biodegradable pads and tampons.

Other winners

Meanwhile, winners in the "industry" category included Jaan Leis, Mati Arulepp and Anti Perkson from Estonia, while Claude Grison from the French National Scientific Research Center (CNRS) and the University of Montpellier won in the "research” category.

The public voted to award Elena Garcia Armada, a Spanish robotics engineer, the Popular Prize award voted by the public.

Erin Smith (USA) together with Victor Dewulf (Belgium) & Peter Hedley (UK), joint 1st place winners of the Young Inventors prize at the 2022 European Inventor Award

Erin Smith, Victor Dewulf and Peter Hedley shared the first place in the Young Inventor award for their AI-based technologies.

What is the European Inventor Award?

The European Inventor Award contest was launched in 2006 by the European Patent Office (EPO), headquartered in Munich, Germany.

The winners and finalists from 12 countries were chosen by an independent jury made up of previous award finalists.

"Our finalists represent diverse sectors of industry and fields of technology, underlining the depth of human ingenuity while providing solutions for challenges that impact us all," said EPO President Antonio Campinos.

Edited by: Clare Roth