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IMAGE: This is Colombian epidemiologist Nubia Muñoz, winner of the BBVA Foundation Frontiers of Knowledge Award in Development Cooperation. view more 

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Credit: International Agency for Research on Cancer/BBVA Foundation

The BBVA Foundation Frontiers of Knowledge Award in the Development Cooperation category goes, in this tenth edition, to the Colombian epidemiologist Nubia Muñoz, whose work was instrumental in establishing that infection with human papillomavirus (HPV) is the principal and necessary cause of cervical cancer. Her studies played a catalytic role in the development of anti-virus vaccines capable of preventing 70% of all cervical cancers, a disease where 80% of cases involve women in developing countries.

Dr. Muñoz (Cali, Colombia, 1940), says the jury, “established the epidemiological relationship between papillomavirus and cervical cancer,” and her work “has been a true catalyst for vaccine development and subsequent application throughout the world, including the most affected countries.” “This was the first vaccine,” the citation points out, “specifically targeting the prevention of cancer.”

The existence of the HPV vaccine “is like a dream come true,” she commented by phone this morning at the awards press event. “I am keenly aware that I am a privileged researcher. Very few epidemiologists have seen their work become the definitive proof that resolves

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