A life-science research prize was proposed by the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization in 2008, but because of controversy over who the award was sponsored by and named after — Equatorial Guinea's President Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo — it has remained in limbo until now, says Brian Owens at the Nature News blog. Western diplomats opposed the prize, citing corruption and human rights violations in a country ruled by a man many consider to be a dictator, Owens says. But Obiang insisted the prize be awarded, and UNESCO's board voted in March to rename the prize and award it. It's now called the UNESCO-Equatorial Guinea International Prize for Research in the Life Sciences, and the $3 million needed to fund it over five years will come from the government of Equatorial Guinea, rather than from Obiang's private foundation, Owens adds.
The first winners have already been announced, and will each receive $100,000: Egypt's Maged Al-Sherbiny for his work on vaccines and diagnostics for hepatitis C; South Africa's Felix Dapare Dakora for his work on symbiosis between legumes and soil bacteria; and Mexico's Rossana Arroyo for her work on trichomoniasis, Owens says.