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José López Barneo, Winner of the "Javier Benjumea Puigcerver" Prize for Research

February 22, 2006

Seville, 20 February 2006. – Today, the Focus-Abengoa Foundation and the Social Council of the University of Seville will award José López Barneo, doctor of medicine and director of the Bio-Medical Research Centre, the III “Javier Benjumea Puigcerver” Prize for Research, in recognition of his work entitled “Autologous transplants of carotid body cells in Parkinson’s disease”.

The awards ceremony, to be held on 20 February at 12pm in the University of Seville auditorium, will be presided by the dean of the university, Miguel Florencio Lara, the president of the Social Council, Maria Luisa García García, and the presidents of the Focus-Abengoa Foundation, Felipe and Javier Benjumea.

The award-winning research directed and co-ordinated by Dr. José López Barneo is an unprecedented investigative work of great scientific and social significance, given that nearly 250,000 people in Spain suffer from Parkinson’s disease. The objective of this work is the development of more efficient cell therapy options than those currently used to treat this disease.

Parkinson’s disease, a neurodegenerative illness caused by unknown factors, begins with the death of dopamine-producing neurons located in the brain – dopamine being the neurotransmitter involved in the control of bodily functions. After seven years of work, Dr. López Barneo and his team discovered that the carotid body, a paired structure located in the neck and responsible for measuring the concentration of oxygen in the blood, contained high levels of dopamine – precisely the substance that Parkinson’s sufferers lack – and decided to study the possibility of using this tissue as a donor to substitute the cells that had been destroyed.

Dr. López Bareno conducted a pilot study on the autologous transplant of carotid tissue in patients suffering from Parkinson’s and obtained very positive results; none of the patients involved in the study suffered from adverse side effects. This initial pilot study was followed by a second trial, which demonstrated that carotid tissue implants have a beneficial effect on Parkinson’s symptoms in men.

The scientific efforts of José López Barneo, doctor of medicine, tenured professor of Physiology at the University of Seville and director of his research group since 1982, have been published in over 100 articles appearing in international magazines and publications such as Trends in Neurosciences, the Annual Review of Physiology, Current Opinion in Neurobiology or the New England Journal of Medicine. In addition, his findings have been discussed at numerous conferences, seminars and congress presentations. He has been invited to lecture at universities and research centres in the U.S., Russia, Japan, Germany, Canada, Great Britain, Italy, Chile, Mexico, Switzerland, Spain and other countries.

Over the course of his professional career, José López Barneo has received various prizes and distinctions for both his research and his academic work, including the “King Juan Carlos I” National Scientific and Technical Research Prize, granted by the Ministry of Education and Science in 1993, the “Medal of Andalusia”, and the “King Jaime I” National Research Prize, awarded by the Valencian Foundation for Higher Education.

The “Javier Benjumea Puigcerver” Prize for Research, awarded on a annual basis and accompanied by an economic bonus of 18,000 euros, is given to doctors and graduates of the University of Seville in recognition of applied research efforts directed at the solution of problems that private companies and public administrations currently face in this sphere.

The creation of this prize was initially proposed by the Social Council of the University of Seville with the intention of valuing, specifying and perpetuating the memory of one of Seville’s most famous personalities, Javier Benjumea Puigcerver. The ratification of the agreement between the University of Seville and the Focus-Abengoa Foundation took place in the university auditorium, the same hall in which Javier Benjumea Puigcerver was invested with the title of Doctor Honoris Causa on 11 January 1999.

The Social Council of the University of Seville, the university’s arm for participation in local society, promotes the adaptation of educational possibilities and university activities to better suite the needs of Andalusian society. With regard to the Focus-Abengoa Foundation, this organization was established in 1982 as a consequence of the cultural activity initiated in 1972 by Abengoa with the publishing of the works "Sevillian Topics" and "Iconography of Seville". During the same period a collection of documents, books and engravings on the medieval kingdom of Seville, or written by Sevillian authors, was being put together. This initial cultural activity brought Abengoa's senior management to see the importance of the company being seen outside its essential technological functions through an activity that would be of benefit to society as a whole, which in turn led to the founding of the Fundación Fondo de Cultura of Seville.

The activities of the Foundation have grown in strength and number in faithful adherence to its corporate purpose, which is the promotion of culture in its many artistic and scientific expressions. The activities of the Focus-Abengoa Foundation have mainly been focused on education, painting, restoration and music, and to a lesser degree on seminars, literary publications and engravings.

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