According to figures published by the World Health Organization (WHO), uncorrected vision problems result in significant losses in productivity - about €88.2 billion (£103 bn) annually.
Leigh Canham's pioneering research has led to the development of a new form of porous silicon, called BioSilicon. The honeycomb structure and semiconductor properties of BioSilicon enable drugs and other therapeutics or vaccines to be released slowly over hours, days, months or even years. At the end, all that is left in the body is pure silicon, which dissolves and is safely excreted via the kidneys. Drug loaded BioSilicon can be taken orally, by injection, transdermally, via patch, implant or coatings.
Canham's research has also led to the development of biodegradable micropiercers, microneedles and biolistic bullets, capable of delivering drugs directly into a selected organ or even a specific cell. This has important implications for many areas of medicine including new potential treatments for cancer and blinding eye disease.
The two inventions were chosen from a larger number of proposals submitted to the European Patent Office and underwent rigorous examination before being selected by a high calibre international jury.
Prizes will be awarded for five categories – industry, research, small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), non-european countries and lifetime achievement.
Europe's most prestigious innovation prize will be awarded on 19 May in Budapest, Hungary.
"The nominations for the European Inventor Award 2011 are a positive proof that European enterprises can hold their own with cutting-edge products in a wide range of fields," said EPO President Benoît Battistelli.
"These inventions owe much of their commercial success to the rational exploitation of European patents. With the revenue from their patents, companies are able to invest billions in research and development year after year. This investment in turn works to the benefit of society as a whole".
EU Internal Market and Services Commissioner Michel Barnier said: "Harnessing technological creativity for marketable innovation is an essential means of ensuring that Europe remains competitive on the global scene."
He added: "Inventors are key figures in our knowledge society. They secure and create millions of jobs, making a major contribution to Europe's economic future.
The awards were launched by the European Patent Office (EPO) in 2006 with the support of the European Commission. This year the EPO is being supported once again by the Commission, as well as the Hungarian Presidency of the Council of the European Union.
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