Spain's top science prize awarded to biologists

Biologists Peter Lawrence and Gines Morata who showed that fruit flies and humans have much genetic material in common have won Spain's prestigious science award Wednesday.

Lawrence, a British microbiologist at Cambridge University, and Spaniard Morata of Complutense University in Madrid, won the Prince of Asturias Prize for scientific and technological research.

Both scientists specialize in developmental biology, and worked together studying the genetic development of Drosophila melanogaster, the common fruit fly. Their research showed that this species of fly shares 60 percent of its genetic makeup with other kinds of animals, including humans.

"Their work is essential in understanding the formation of complete organisms and understanding the process of human aging and genetic diseases that cause illnesses like cancer," the Prince of Asturias Foundation said.

Recipients of the award, named after Prince Felipe, heir to the Spanish throne, receive US$67,000 (EUR50,000) and a reproduction of a statue by Catalan sculptor Joan Miro.

Winners are announced throughout the year and are presented with their awards at a ceremony in the fall in the northern Spanish city of Oviedo, capital of the Asturias region.

Eight Prince of Asturias awards are given annually in fields like arts, letters, sports and humanities to Spaniards and foreigners alike. Two winners of this year's awards had already been announced: Bob Dylan in the arts and former U.S. Vice President Al Gore for his work in raising awareness of global warming.

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