20 of world's top women scientists honored in Paris for groundbreaking research in life sciences

Caltech biology professor receives 2006 L’ORÉAL-UNESCO $100K prize for North America; only prize that honors eminent women scientists at the international level

Paris, March 2, 2006– Today at UNESCO House in Paris, France, Sir Lindsay Owen-Jones, Chairman and CEO of L'ORÉAL, and Koïchiro Matsuura, Director-General of UNESCO, presented the prestigous 2006 L'ORÉAL-UNESCO For Women in Science prize to five distinguished women scientists from North America, Africa, Asia/Pacific, Europe, and Latin America. Considered the "Nobel Prize" for Women in Science, the awards honor female scientists who are leaders in their fields. The 2006 L'ORÉAL UNESCO For Women in Science Laureates' have a combined 140 years of research experience that has major implications for global public health. This year's Laureates include :

  • Professor Pamela BJORKMAN (USA), Laureate for North America, "For her discovery of how the immune system recognizes targets". Biology, Howard Hughes Medical Institute, California Institute of Technology (Caltech), Pasadena. Bjorkman is being honored for her lifetime commitment to decoding protein structures, one of the seminal accomplishments in immunology and a major step toward new HIV therapies.

  • Professor Esther OROZCO (Mexico), Laureate for Latin America, "For her discovery of the mechanism and control of infections by amoebae in the tropics". Molecular Pathology, Experimental Pathology Department, Center for Advanced Research (CINVESTAV), National Polytechnic Institute, Mexico City. Orozco's research discoveries have paved the way for the future development of a vaccine against Entamoeba histolytica, a parasite that infects more than 10% of the world's population.

  • Professor Habiba BOUHAMED CHAABOUNI (Tunisia), Laureate for Africa, "For her contribution to the analysis and prevention of hereditary disorders". Medical Genetics, University of Tunis. Chaabouni has fought for over 20 years to get medical gentics recognized as an essential discipline in Tunisia, a country with a high prevelance of genetic disorders and one of the world's highest rates of consanguineous marriage.

  • Professor Christine VAN BROECKHOVEN (Belgium), Laureate for Europe, "For her genetic investigations of Alzheimer's and other neurodegenerative disorders". Molecular biology and genetics, University of Antwerp, Research Director at the Institute Born-Bunge, Scientific Director of the Department of Molecular Genetics, Interuniversity Institute for Biotechnology, Flanders. Van Broeckhoven is among the first to study the molecular genetics of neurological diseases and is considered the world authority on Alzheimer's.

  • Professor Jennifer GRAVES (Australia), Laureate for Asia/Pacific, "For her study on the evolution of mammalian genomes". Head of Comparative Genomics Research Group and ARC Centre for Kangaroo Genomics, Australian National University, Canberra. A former Fulbight scholar, Graves received her PhD in molecular biology from the University of California at Berkeley. Her research into comparative genomics (comparing Australian animals to humans) – demonstrates that the Y chromosome will be extinct in male platypuses in 10 million years. She has garnered worldwide attention for the bleak future she has predicted for the Y chromosome in humans.

The Laureates were selected by a jury of 15 eminent international scientists, presided over by Nobel Laureate Professor Gunter Blobel, from Rockefeller University, and Christian de Duve (formerly from Rockefeller University) of the Institute of Cellular Pathology in Belgium. Laureates are nominated by hundreds of respected scientists from around the world. The Awards recognize five Laureates, one from each of the five continents: Africa, Latin America, North America, Asia Pacific, and Europe. Each Laureate receives USD$100,000.

"L'ORÉAL's' commitment alongside UNESCO in the For Women in Science partnership is a concrete expression of our firm intention to promote women in scientific research," said Sir Lindsay Owen-Jones, Chairman and CEO of L'ORÉAL. "Innovation is a core value that has been nurtured since the Group's founding and we want to participate in the creation of new careers throughout the world."

The L'ORÉAL-UNESCO Award is part of the L'ORÉAL-UNESCO For Women in Science program, a multi dimensional program consisting of three parts:

  • The L'ORÉAL-UNESCO Awards, the founding act of the program. These prestigious annual distinctions, awarded to five leading women researchers, one per continent, identify exceptional women as role models for the generations to come. Women in the life sciences and the material sciences are honored in alternating years.

  • The L'ORÉAL-UNESCO International Fellowships, granted annually since 2000 to 15 promising young women scientists, doctorate or post-doctorate, to encourage international scientific cooperation and the developing of cross-cultural networks. Fellows submit their postgraduate research projects to their country's UNESCO National Commission for consideration. Each national commission chooses two candidates, who are then judged by an international selection committee. Three recipients are named per region: Africa, Arab States, Asia/Pacific, Europe/North America and Latin America/Caribbean. The beneficiaries of the 2006 Fellowships can be found at www.forwomeninscience.com

  • The L'ORÉAL National Fellowships with the support of the UNESCO National Commissions, which anchor the "For Women in Science" program in countries around the world, while respecting their particularities and specific needs. Every year, nearly sixty fellowships are allocated in some twenty countries.

Since the For Women in Science program's inception in 1998, 132 women from 60 countries have been recognized as either Laureates or Fellows for their contributions to scientific progress. The For Women in Science program works to encourage women scientists to persevere under sometimes challenging circumstances, such as social stigmas and gender biases. By giving women in science a public face, the program seeks to provide the next generation of women scientists with inspirational role models.

"The commitment of a group such as L'ORÉAL alongside an organization like UNESCO is a perfect example of the sort of partnership which we can engage in with the private sector," said Koïchiro Matsuura, Director-General of UNESCO.

To commemorate UNESCO's 60th anniversary L'ORÉAL and UNESCO awarded a special tribute to Professor Christiane Nüsslein-Volhard, 1995 Nobel Prize in Medicine, "For her efforts in supporting highly qualified women with children to facilitate their progress in science". The Tribute was accompanied by a $100,000 donation to the Christiane Nüsslein-Volhard Foundation.


Nüsslein-Volhard created the foundation in 2003 to alleviate the difficulties that women face in reconciling family life and research. Through the foundation, she hopes to make a contribution to the advancement of highly qualified women in leading scientific research institutions. She is currently the Director of Genetics at the Max Planck Institute in Tübingen, Germany.

For more information on the Laureates, the L'ORÉAL-UNESCO partnership, or the Tribute for UNESCO's 60th anniversary, please visit: www.forwomeninscience.com

L'ORÉAL is a worldwide leader in the cosmetics industry, developing innovative products to meet the diverse needs of customers in 130 countries worldwide. Over 3,100 people work in the Group's 14 research centers, located in France, Asia and America. Their findings are responsible for the registration of hundreds of patents annually. Women represent 55% of the research workforce – a percentage unmatched anywhere else in the industry. www.loreal.com

Since its creation in 1945, UNESCO has been dedicated to eliminating all forms of discrimination and promoting equality between men and women. While designing scientific education programs intended especially for young women, UNESCO has created several academic chairs that connect women of science around the world. The international report on science, technology and gender that UNESCO will shortly publish is intended help its 191 Member States develop appropriate policies in this area. www.unesco.org/science/women

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