Princess Astrid of Belgium, Archduchess of Austria-Este attended the Essenscia Innovation Award on 17 October 2016, in the Palais des Académies in Brussels.
Her Imperial and Royal Highness was on hand to lend her presence at the event, which is organised by the Belgian Federation for Chemistry and Life Sciences, Essenscia. The award recognizes innovative projects that create industrial employment in Belgium and contribute to sustainable development. Through this initiative, Essenscia intends to encourage Belgian companies to innovate even more and to protect their intellectual assets.
The sister of King Philippe of the Belgians presented the prize of €30,000 to GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) for their innovative candidate vaccine against shingles. The British biopharmaceutical company’s candidate vaccine was chosen unanimously by the jury out of 40 competing projects. The “very promising” vaccine comes after twenty years of research, in which the results of clinical trials on elderly patients have been particularly encouraging.
Essenscia expressed pride in the chosen winner, stating that a large part of the scientific research towards the project occurred in Belgium and that (as soon as approved by the Belgian health authorities) production of the vaccine would mainly take place in Wavre.
In Europe alone, 1.7 million people are diagnosed with shingles each year. If production of the vaccine is approved, it could help improve the lives of millions of patients, explained Emmanuel Hanon, head of Research and Development (R&D) of Vaccines at GSK. GSK first established itself in Belgium in 1955 and employs more than 8,500 employees of which 1,900 work in R&D across three sites: Rixensart, Gembloux and Wavre. With two million vaccines being produced each year in Wavre, the site has become the biggest vaccine producer in the world.
The Belgian Royal Family have been connected with the biennial award in the past. In 2014 Princess Astrid once again attended the award ceremony in order to present the prize, whereas in 2012 it was Prince (now King) Philippe who did the honours.