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Enrique Cerdá Olmedo receives 5th "Javier Benjumea Puigcerver" Research Prize from the University of Seville and the Focus-Abengoa Foundation

March 17, 2008

Seville, 17 March 2008. Enrique Cerdá Olmedo, Professor of genetics at the Faculty of Biology at the University of Seville, today received the 5th "Javier Benjumea Puigcerver" Research Prize for his scientific and research contribution to the wellbeing and health of people, through the biological production of carotenes, precursors of vitamin A, whose absence causes blindness, infections and numerous other illnesses.

The prize has been given to Enrique Cerdá for his work entitled, "Biotechnology of carotenes and other terpenoids, an application of genetics", for its extraordinary scientific value of enormous significance in the field of national and international research. The work, which focuses on the production of beta-carotene by Mucorales fungi will benefit the health of society in general and the more disadvantaged regions of the planet in particular, such as Southeast Asia, where millions of people die every year and suffer from blindness due to lack of vitamin A.

The production of beta-carotene, which animals cannot produce but which we significantly depend on, has positive effects on humans' quality of life since beta-carotene is the principal source of retinol, used to receive light in the retina. When it is deficient, the organism becomes susceptible to infections, especially in pregnant females, and to cellular development abnormalities.

The 5th edition of the Research Prize was presented today, 17 March, in the presence of a large number of academics and researchers at an official event held in the auditorium at the University of Seville which was attended by the acting Dean, Mr Miguel Florencio Lora; Chairman of the Governing Board (Consejo Social) of the University of Seville, Ms María Luisa García, and the Chairman of the Focus-Abengoa Foundation, Mr Felipe Benjumea Llorente.

This award, in which the Governing Board of the University, the Focus Abengoa Foundation and the University of Seville all participate, is designed to recognise the work carried out by researchers within the university community (doctors, graduates or diploma holders) who participate in research projects that meet the needs of companies and entities in relation to research and development. The conditions for the prize state that research work will be evaluated in the scientific and technical knowledge areas of the University of Seville, as well as other criteria such as the quality of the work, its scientific interest to companies, society and its usefulness, and the interest of the research in relation to the socio-economic and business environment of the University.

Professor Cerdá's research has generated interest from several companies that may make the investment required to produce, purify and distribute synthetic carotene.

The significant value of the project is complemented by the magnitude of Professor Cerdá's scientific career as author of numerous publications, creator of the Department of Genetics at the Faculty of Biology at the University of Seville, a member of the European Molecular Biology Organization, a member of the Spanish Royal Academy of Engineering and the Seville Royal Academy of Sciences. He has been presented with the King James I prize for Scientific Research, one of the most prestigious scientific awards in Spain, the Medal of Andalusia and the Manuel Aguilar Research Prize, among others.

His work receives an award of 18,000 Euros, a diploma and will be published under the title, "Biotechnology of carotenes and other terpenoids, an application of microbial genetics".

The event also featured the presentation of the publication of the winning work of the 4th edition of the award by Aníbal Ollero Baturone, Professor of Systems and Automation Engineering from the Engineering College of the University of Seville, entitled "Autonomous distributed systems for applications in vehicles and natural environments".

Previous editions of the "Javier Benjumea Puigcerver" prize have been awarded to Miguel Angel de la Rosa Acosta, Professor of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology at the University of Seville (1st edition); Antonio Barrero Ripoll, Professor of Energy Engineering and Fluids Mechanics at the University of Seville (2nd edition); José López Barneo, Professor of Physiology and Biophysics at the University of Seville (3rd edition) and Anibal Ollero Baturone, Professor of Systems and Automation Engineering from the Engineering College of the University of Seville (4th edition).

The jury for the award comprised the Chairman of the Governing Board, María Luisa García; the Dean of the University of Seville, Miguel Florencio; the Vice-dean for Research, Development and Innovation, Saturio Ramos; two members of the Governing Board, Luis Uruñela Fernández and Ana Reina Ramos; the Technical Secretary of the Focus-Abengoa Foundation, José Antonio Moreno Delgado, and the Professor of Administrative and International Public Law, Juan Antonio Carrillo Salcedo.

The Governing Board is the participatory body for society in the University whose functions include promoting the relevance of the range of courses and activities in Andalusian society. According to its regulations, the functions of the Board are defined into three blocks: Economic-financial, which includes powers to approve and pay the university’s budgets, rates and public prices, etc.; Academic, which encompasses the approval of new qualifications and the rules of attendance for students, among others; and Social Relations, with functions to promote agreements and the sponsorship and collaboration of society in the financing of the University.

The Governing Board of the University of Seville decided to promote the creation of a "Javier Benjumea Puigcerver" research prize in order to honour the memory of such a distinguished person from Seville society who was awarded an Honoris Causa Doctorate from the University of Seville.

The Focus-Abengoa Foundation was started in 1982 as a result of the cultural work begun in 1972 by Abengoa with the publication of the works Temas Sevillanos (Themes of Seville) and Iconografía de Sevilla (Iconography of Seville). A collection of documents, books and recordings on the Kingdom of Seville and by Sevillian authors was created at the same time. This initial cultural work showed Abengoa’s directors the importance of the company’s involvement in activities that directly benefit society, beyond its core technology based work, and from this the Cultural Fund Foundation of Seville was created.

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