Mr Li Ka-shing recently attended two virtual celebrations through Zoom hosted by University of Alberta and University of California, Berkeley, to congratulate Professor Michael Houghton and Professor Jennifer Doudna after they were presented with their 2020 Nobel Prizes in Medicine and Chemistry at their respective cities. To top off the festivities, both professors presented replicas of their Nobel medals to Mr Li to express their deep appreciation for his long standing support of their research.
Speaking at the Berkeley celebration Mr Li said, “I have always believed life and destiny is the confluence of fate and luck, and that science will reshape human destiny. Jennifer, you have made a discovery recognized for rewriting the code of life that will significantly impact our world and will benefit generations to come. I am so honoured to be part of your journey, and humbled by your generosity of gifting a replica medal to me. Never in my wildest dreams – imprinted with memories of war and poverty – could I have imagined today, supporting the good work of committed men and women to build the good of science is on my mind a hundred times every single day. This I promise you.”
In addition, a pleasant surprise was in store at the University of Alberta event when one of the invited guests, Premier Mr. Jason Kenney announced that the province will support The Li Ka Shing Applied Virology Institute (AVI) with new funding of C$20 million over the next 4 years. This welcomed news was met with great excitement as the Institute can accelerate the clinical trials for a Hepatitis C vaccine.
When Mr Li read an article headlined “The unsung heroes of the Nobel-winning hepatitis C discovery” in the Nature scientific journal which mentioned Professor Houghton felt bitter sweet that there were two other virologists who shared in the discovery but did not receive the Nobel Prize. Therefore it was particularly heartwarming when Professor Houghton was unable to contain his emotions and choked on his words when he shared during their ceremony that the Li Ka Shing Foundation will honor Dr. Qui-Lim Choo and Dr. George Kuo, his co-investigators at Chiron’s Hepetatis C Research team, each with the same Nobel prize money of US380,000 to recognize their contributions to this discovery which has benefitted the lives of millions. Professor Houghton’s long held belief was that “these talented geniuses deserve to be recognized.”
Professor Choo was stunned when he received the news of the award and is very grateful for the Foundation’s support, he said, “Thank you for your recognition of the discovery of the hepatitis C virus by both of us. I feel very happy because no one has done this before.”
To put matters into perspective, Mr Li revealed that while Professor Houghton’s active devotion to scientific research is extremely admirable, it was his selfless and indefatigable championing for recognition of his colleagues’ contributions that is most commendable. Today’s leaders can no longer be self-centered, which is the ultimate impediment to the creation of great achievements.