A team of Irish medical research scientists will receive the UNESCO Science Award for their work into the treatment of leprosy.

The four scientists in question are James G Belton, Michael Conalty, JF O'Sullivan and Dermot Twomey who work in the laboratories of the Medical Research Council of Ireland based in Trinity College Dublin.

This is the first time that an Irish nomination has been made for the UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) Science Prize. The prize is awarded to an individual or group to acknowledge a contribution through the application of science and technology to the development of a member state or region.

Doctor Michael Conalty explains that while the team was working on a drug for treating tuberculosis (TB), they found that it could be used in the treatment of leprosy, which affects approximately fifteen million people around the globe.

He believes that just as TB was eradicated in Ireland, leprosy could also disappear as a disease,

We have good treatments for tuberculosis, and we anticipate that exactly the same thing will happen with leprosy.

Describing themselves as pleased with the recognition for their work, he says it is a welcome change from the Medical Research Council of Ireland, who would prefer pharmaceutical companies to conduct this type of research,

Things like leprosy are not attractive for drug companies, because there's not much profit in it.

Doctor Conalty, as his team are not interested in profit, so they are in a better position to undertake such research.

An RTÉ News report broadcast on 29 April 1981. The reporter is Charlie Bird.