The 64th Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting ended with a panel discussion entitled "Science for the benefit of mankind" on Mainau Island, Lake Constance, Germany, today." 37 Nobel laureates and more than 600 selected young scientists from 80 countries had participated in the week-long meeting in the Bavarian city of Lindau since last Sunday. A boat trip to Mainau at the invitation of the State of Baden-Württemberg marked the finish of the programme which was devoted to medicine and physiology. In 1895 Alfred Nobel determined in his will that the Nobel Prizes shall be awarded to those scientists whose achievements confer the greatest benefit to mankind. The Lindau Meeting again made it clear that many medical achievements in the prevention and treatment of disease can be attributed to Nobel Prize-winning research. However, especially the final discussion also showed that scientists today are exposed to rising expectations of society. Despite the lengthy processes of basic research and the numerous obstacles to the worldwide implementation of applied science, particularly the representatives of the younger generation were confident that cutting-edge research will continue to find solutions to the problems of our time.
One problem in conveying this view is that the benefits of many research findings are not always immediately apparent. Accordingly, the German biophysicist Erwin Neher said, "The research findings for which Bert Sakmann and I received the Nobel Prize in 1991, did not seem to be particularly relevant for medical application at first. Now however it is clear that many hereditary diseases are attributable to mutations in the ion channels in cell membranes which we studied. A variety of medications, for example for the treatment of type 2 diabetes, hypertension, cardiac arrhythmia, cystic fibrosis, and even the symptoms of Alzheimer's disease are based on this knowledge."
In the panel discussion on the topic "Science for the benefit of mankind" it was repeatedly emphasised that basic research forms the essential basis for applied science and should therefore be supported equally as translational research. Françoise Barré-Sinoussi of France, who was awarded the Nobel Prize in Medicine in 2008 for the discovery of HIV, and the Australia-based US American Brian Schmidt, who was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics in 2011 for the discovery of the accelerated expansion of the universe, took part in the discussion just like Georg Schütte, State Secretary in the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research. Joining them on the panel was the native Tanzanian Charles Mgone, Director of the "European and Developing Countries Clinical Trials Partnership" (EDCTP). In view of the structural differences between the industrialised nations and the developing countries, all panellists agreed that Global Health was a task that required a variety of innovative tailor-made approaches and action on the part of science, industry and politics.
Françoise Barré-Sinoussi warned against a too strong focus on applied research. "We must continue to support basic research, otherwise there will soon be no more basis for the applied research." Brian Schmidt clearly advocated that scientists should have the liberty to choose a research topic whose benefits do not lie on hand. The discussion was moderated by Geoffrey Carr, science editor of the British weekly "The Economist".
With Ghada Bassioni of Egypt, who had participated in the Lindau Meeting of 2012 as a postdoctoral fellow and now heads the Department of Chemistry of the Faculty of Engineering at Ain Shams University in Cairo, also a member of the younger generation participated in the discussion. Her appeal to invest significantly more in young researchers and to trust in their potential in the quest for solutions to the problems of our time was unanimously acclaimed by the assembled audience of meeting participants and guests. "To inspire, motivate, and connect promising young scientists is the core concern of the Lindau Nobel Laureate Meetings," said Countess Bettina Bernadotte af Wisborg, President of the Council. In her closing speech, she stressed that the intergenerational and intercultural dialogue is a key to global knowledge transfer for the benefit of all people.
The final day of the Lindau Meeting is traditionally held on Mainau Island. On behalf of the Baden-Württemberg government Permanent Secretary Klaus-Peter Murawski and the Ministerial Director of the State's Ministry of Science, Research and the Arts Dr. Simone Schwanitz had the conference participants welcomed on board the cruise ship "MS Sonnenkönigin" for the boat trip from Lindau to Mainau Island in the morning. "The Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting provides an important platform for an international dialogue amongst established researchers and young scientists", Murawski had emphasised.
Founded in 1951 the Lindau Nobel Laureate Meetings annually bring together Nobel Laureates and young scientists for an exchange among each other. The meetings are organised by the Council for the Lindau Nobel Laureate Meetings and the Foundation Lindau Nobel Laureate Meetings.
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