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2008 Millennium Technology Prize Finalists Announced

Finalists for the 2008 Millennium Technology Prize have been announced by the Technology Academy Finland. The Millennium Technology Prize is awarded every second year for a technological innovation that significantly improves the quality of human life, today and in the future. Those competing for the world's largest technology prize are:

  • Alec Jeffreys, Professor, Department of Genetics, University of Leicester, UK for his "invention of DNA fingerprinting used in identification of criminal suspects and in paternity and immigration disputes. No other development in modern genetics has had such a profound impact worldwide on the lives of many millions of people."
  • Robert Langer, Professor, MIT, Harvard-MIT Division of Health Sciences and Technology, USA for his "inventions and development of innovative biomaterials for controlled drug release and tissue regeneration that have saved and improved the lives of millions of people."
  • Andrew J. Viterbi, President, Viterbi Group LLC, Professor Emeritus, University of Southern California, for "the invention of the Viterbi algorithm, the key building element in modern wireless and digital communications systems, touching lives of people everywhere."
  • Emmanuel Desurvire, Director, Physics Research Group, Thales Corporate Research & Technology, France, and Randy Giles, Director, Optical Networks, Bell Laboratories, Alcatel-Lucent, New Jersey, USA, and David N. Payne, Director, Optoelectronics Research Centre, University of Southampton, UK for their "contributions to telecommunications through the invention of the erbium-doped fibre amplifier (EDFA) which made possible the global high-capacity optical fibre network, serving as a backbone of the global information superhighway."

The DNA fingerprinting technique developed by British geneticist Sir Alec Jeffreys has revolutionized the field of forensic science, as well as playing an important role in the resolution of paternity and immigration disputes. Today DNA fingerprints are examined everywhere, even in portable laboratories, and the equipment for genetic fingerprinting is being made by dozens of companies around the world.

The innovation of Desurvire, Giles and Payne, erbium-doped fibre amplifier (EDFA), has revolutionized the world of high-speed and long-distance communication. Optical fibre networks constitute a global spider web, used to transmit telephone signals and Internet communication. Amplifiers are needed to boost the degraded light signals. EDFA is a device that amplifies an optical signal directly, without the need to first convert it to an electrical signal. The work from Desurvire, Giles, and Payne reduced the cost and "unleashed" the bandwidth of long distance fiber-optics networks.

Robert Langer's contributions to medicine and biotechnology are highly recognized. He is a pioneer of many new technologies, including transdermal delivery systems, which allow the administration of drugs through the skin without needles or other invasive methods. His work in drug-releasing polymers eventually led to the creation of a novel way to treat brain cancer. His work has also brought about significant advances in tissue engineering, including synthetic replacement for biological tissues.

Andrew Viterbi's fundamental contributions to communications technology and theory have touched our everyday lives. He is best known for developing Viterbi Algorithm, a technique that has advanced the design and implementation of modern wireless communication systems. For instance mobile phone networks rely on the algorithm to eliminate noise that would otherwise make communication almost impossible. There is a detector utilizing Viterbi algorithm in the disk drive of every computer and high-capacity MP3 player. It is also used in outer space communications, speech recognition and DNA analysis.

The prize pool for the 2008 Millennium Technology Prize is 1.15 million euros. The Winner of the Millennium Technology Prize, to be announced June 11, 2008, will be awarded 800,000 euros, and the other innovations will each be awarded 115,000 euros.

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