Posted on February 13, 2020

RCSI Professor Kevin McGuigan (Physiology and Medical Physics) has been awarded the UNESCO-Equatorial Guinea International Prize for Research in the Life Sciences among two other winners.

Professor McGuigan was honoured for his cutting-edge research on the development and implementation of solar water disinfection technology (SODIS) to combat waterborne diseases among people without access to safe drinking water in Africa and Asia.


His approach to this research is unique and pioneering, in both the laboratory and in the field, among the communities most exposed to waterborne diseases in developing countries. His research group demonstrated the impact using SODIS on childhood diarrhoea in 1996 and then on dysentery. SODIS has since demonstrated its effectiveness against all major waterborne pathogens.

More recently, the EU-funded WATERSPOUTT project, which is coordinated by Professor McGuigan, has developed three solar water disinfection technologies that are currently being field tested in Ethiopia, Malawi, Uganda and South Africa.

He is also the research coordinator for PANI-water, a four-year project that is developing six prototypes that will be deployed in rural and peri-urban areas in India.

“I’m honoured to receive this award in recognition of the work our group has accomplished over the past 30 years,” said Professor McGuigan.

“Nearly 5 million people use solar water disinfection on a daily basis to meet their water requirements. Nevertheless, we have an expanding global population relying on a shrinking reserve of safe water, which is vulnerable to contaminants of emerging concern. There is no time to rest on our laurels. The fight to provide access to safe water for all continues.”

Professor McGuigan was awarded alongside Professor Cato Laurencin (USA) and Professor Youyou Tu (China).

Professor Youyou Tu of the Chinese Academy of Chinese Medical Sciences, laureate of the 2015 Nobel Prize for Medicine, is recognised for her research into parasitic diseases. She discovered an entirely new anti-malarial treatment, artemisinin, which made possible the treatment of thousands of patients in China in the 1980s.

Professor Laurencin, a teacher, biomedical engineer and orthopaedic surgeon, is the Chief Executive Officer of the Connecticut Convergence Institute for Translation in Regenerative Engineering and the Albert and Wilda Van Dusen Distinguished Professor of Orthopaedic Surgery. His outstanding contributions to the advancement of science have been recognised worldwide.

RCSI University of Medicine and Health Sciences is ranked among the top 250 (top 2%) of universities worldwide in the Times Higher Education World University Rankings (2020) and its research is ranked first in Ireland for citations. It is an international not-for-profit university, with its headquarters in Dublin, focused on education and research to drive improvements in human health worldwide. RCSI has been awarded Athena Swan Bronze accreditation for positive gender practice in higher education.

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