What message does the realization of how insignificant humanity is compared to a single new virus send us? Prof. Matija Tomšič, MD, PhD, president of the international panel for the International Medis Awards for Medical Research contest, responds spontaneously, without hesitation: "Modesty, humility and hard research work bring changes in the long run!"

The seventh international contest for outstanding research achievements in medicine and pharmacy, the International Medis Awards for Medical Research, is in full swing. Until 28 September 2020, the best researchers from Central and Eastern Europe, in nine research areas, are invited to compete for the prestigious award, which has become synonymous for excellence in healthcare. In fact, this year's contest takes place in completely new, unprecedented circumstances. For nearly half a year now, the world has been in the grip of the Covid-19 pandemic, which has revealed how insignificant humanity is compared to a single new virus.

The president of the international expert panel of the aforementioned contest, Prof. Matija Tomšič, MD, PhD, rheumatologist and head of the Clinical Department of Rheumatology at the University Medical Centre Ljubljana, considers that because of the extraordinary world health crisis this year’s contest presents an enormous challenge for research work and bestowing awards:

Most research normally progresses incrementally moving forward in small steps, beginning with basic research, studying the underlying mechanisms of a disease through to the final goal, developing a treatment and/or vaccine. Although medical and pharmaceutical research is ongoing and is basic on the one hand and on the other hand also clinical when it comes to testing of certain drugs, the media light is now focused on this research which otherwise is not particularly media-exposed. Because of the pandemic however, media interest has intensified, and I believe that this year there will be more talk about research work in the media than usual.

Although there are never enough resources for science, as the ambitions of researchers usually always go beyond realistic limits, according to Prof. Matija Tomšič, MD, PhD, the research “fitness”, zeal and curiosity of clinicians in medicine and pharmacy, who are also dedicated to research activities, are certainly growing in the light of the pandemic. On the other hand, it is also true that much of the research work takes place on a continuous basis and Covid-19 has not had much of an impact on this research.

Prof. Matija Tomšič, MD, PhD

Last year, a record 207 researchers from Central and Eastern Europe applied for the international contest with their research contributions. It is not possible to predict with certainty how many applications can be expected this year due to the intense engagement of clinicians with the pandemic and the uncertain future. However, the president of the international expert panel is interested primarily in the quality of the submitted research works rather than the number of applications, even though the conditions for participating in the contest have changed slightly this year:

“We optimize the rules every year to make them even more transparent; we learn something new every year and this year we have made some modifications. For example, the impact factor of the publication in which the article is published still remains the most important, but we have changed the conditions if there are more than ten authors of the article or less; we have also excluded all articles sponsored by the pharmaceutical industry and so on. We have changed certain things in order to really capture those who are the best and do research in the areas covered by the International Medis Awards.

The award-winning research works of the International Medis Awards have mainly applied, practical value, as outstanding research works in the past six years have significantly contributed, with small steps, to the development of medicine and pharmacy:

Most of these projects have been applied in selected areas of medicine and the changes brought by them are generally small because there have not been many epochal changes in medicine in recent years. However, these small research achievements are gradually coming into clinical practice in terms of treatment and, of course, diagnostics.

The closing ceremony of the International Medis Awards, which takes place every year in a different host country participating in the contest and attracts considerable attention from the scientific community and the media in the region, is a specific tribute to science and the region's best researchers.

This year, the implementation of the closing event will depend on a number of factors related to the pandemic. What remains certain at the moment is that not only the researchers but also the contest organisers remain pledged to science and they will do everything to make the International Medis Awards event a celebration for the best researchers in the field of pharmacy and medicine in Central and Eastern Europe.

Listen to the podcast interview (in Slovenian)