5 outstanding women scientists honoured with L’Oréal-UNESCO for Women in Science Awards

Honoring women in science: 16th Annual L’Oréal-UNESCO for Women in Science Awards.

It is a known fact that women in the scientific professions are underrepresented, and the situation has improved only slightly over the past ten years, according to a new report on the current status of women in science compiled by the Boston Consulting Group for the L’Oréal Foundation. The report was made for the L’Oréal-UNESCO For Women in Science award.

On the evening of March 19th at the Sorbonne in Paris the L’Oréal-UNESCO For Women in Science 2014 Awards Ceremony will be held in honor of the five Laureates and fifteen International Fellows. It will be presided over by Professor Günter Blobel, Nobel Prize in Medicine. Irina Bokova, Director-General of UNESCO, and Jean-Paul Agon, Chairman and CEO of L’Oréal and Chairman of the L’Oréal Foundation, will be in attendance.

Throughout the program’s 16-year history L’Oréal and UNESCO have worked to support the advancement of women researchers. Every year the program pays tribute to exceptional women scientists and highlights their contributions to changing the world. Since 1998 the program has recognized more than 2,000 women around the globe (82 Laureates, including two who later won the Nobel Prize, and 1,920 Fellows).

Awardees honored for major scientific advancements that are helping solve some of society’s greatest challenges, including cancer, depression and addiction.

Candidates for the L’Oréal-UNESCO For Women in Science Awards were nominated by a network of more than 1,000 international scientists. The five Laureates were then selected by an independent jury chaired by Professor Günter Blobel and composed of twelve eminent members of the international scientific community.

Beginning March 14, 2014 passengers from around the world in all terminals of the Charles de Gaulle and Orly airports will discover portrait exhibits of the five Laureates by renowned American photographer Julian Dufort. The photographer immersed himself in each Laureate’s daily routine in order to truly represent the reality of their lives and capture the person behind the female scientist.

  • Europe : PROFESSOR BRIGITTE KIEFFER – Neurobiology

Professor, University of Strasbourg, France; Research Director, Institut de Génétique et de Biologie Moléculaire et Cellulaire (IGBMC), Illkrich, France; Scientific Director, Douglas Institute Research Center, McGill University, Montréal, Canada.

Named to the French Academie des sciences in December 2013, Prof. Kieffer is being honored for her decisive work on the brain mechanisms involved in pain, mental illness and drug addiction. In 1992, she was the first to clone and isolate the gene for an opioid receptor in the brain that plays a key role in alleviating pain, a puzzle which scientists around the world had been attempting to solve for the previous fifteen years. Her findings led the way to new treatments for fighting pain, addiction and depression.

  • North America : PROFESSOR LAURIE GLIMCHER – Immunology and Medicine

Stephen and Suzanne Weiss Dean, Weill Cornell Medical College, New York, NY, USA; Provost for Medical Affairs, Cornell University, Ithaca, New York, USA.

The first woman dean of a medical school in New York, Prof. Glimcher is a worldwide pioneer and leader in the field of immunology. She is being honored for discovering key factors involved in controlling immune response (T-bet) in allergies and in autoimmune, infectious and malignant diseases. Her findings are paving the way for the development of new treatments for allergies, asthma, multiple sclerosis, childhood diabetes and cancer.

  • Africa and the Arab States: DOCTOR SEGENET KELEMU – Biology & Plant Pathology

Director General, International Center for Insect Physiology and Ecology (ICIPE), Nairobi, Kenya.

The first woman from her region to attend what was then Ethiopia’s only university, Dr. Segenet Kelemu is being honored for her research on how microorganisms living in symbiosis with forage grasses can improve their capacity to resist disease and adapt to environmental and climate change. Her work is providing new solutions for ecologically responsible food crop production, especially by local, small-scale farmers. After having studied in the United States and worked in Colombia, she returned to Africa and is now at the heart of an impressive international scientific research network.

  • Latin America : PROFESSOR CECILIA BOUZAT – Biophysics

Member of the National Scientific and Technical Research Council (CONICET), Buenos Aires; Professor, Universidad Nacional del Sur, Bahia Bianca; Deputy Director, Institute of Biochemical Research of Bahia Bianca (INIBIBB), Argentina.

Named a National Fellow by Argentina’s L’Oréal-UNESCO For Women in Science Jury in 2007, Prof. Bouzat is now an international leader in neurotransmitter pharmacology. She is being honored for her contribution to our understanding of how brain cells communicate among themselves and with muscles. Her world-renowned discoveries enabled the identification of the communications problem between the brain and muscles that causes major neurological disorders. Prof. Bouzat’s work has opened the door to potential new treatments for Alzheimer’s disease, depression and certain addictive behaviors.


  • Asia / Pacific: PROFESSOR KAYO INABA – Immunology & Medicine

Professor, Graduate School of Biostudies, Kyoto University, Japan; Vice-President for Gender Equality and Director of the Center for Women Researchers, Kyoto University, Japan.

The first female associate professor at Kyoto University’s Faculty of Science and deeply committed to bringing more women to scientific research, Prof. Inaba is being honored for her critical discoveries concerning the mechanisms triggered by the immune system when it is faced with a threat such as a virus or bacteria or by abnormal cells such as cancer cells. Specialized in the study of dendritic cells, Prof. Inaba was the first scientist to prove that these cells could be treated outside the body and then reintroduced into the organism to stimulate immune system response. Her discovery marked a turning point in cellular therapy and has already led to a new type of anti-cancer treatment.