Kudos to John Eng on winning a Golden Goose Award for his study on Gila Monster venom, which led to the creation of exentatide, a drug now used by millions of diabetics to prevent complications such as nerve damage, kidney failure and blindness, etc.
"Medicine from monsters and venom may sound like a science-fiction novel, but it's a real-life breakthrough," stated Rep. Jim Cooper (D-Tenn.) who created the awards to counteract public criticism of “useless government grants. "Dr. Eng's research shows that we can't abandon science funding only because we don't know where it might lead. Just ask millions of diabetics whose lives have been improved by his discovery."
Additional winners this year included Hudson Freeze and Thomas Brock, whose discovery of heat-resistant bacteria at Yellowstone National Park led to the discovery of the polymerase chain reaction, “which can amplify DNA and has enabled genetic sequencing and genetic fingerprinting;” as well as Alvin Roth Lloyd Shapley and David Gale for their research on theoretical (mathematical) algorithms in the 1960’s, which were originally meant to find a formula for the most compatible marriages between men and women,” but later served as a method of matching kidney donors with patients waiting for transplants, as well as determining the best hospital positions for graduating medical students. The formula has also been used to match students with the best schools for them in urban districts, etc.
While Gale’s Golden Goose award was given to him posthumously (he died in 2008), it is important to note that his former partners Roth and Shapley were also presented with the 2012 Nobel Prize for Economic Sciences for their work.
Other strange science projects which have received government funding in the past have included experiments such as a $3 million project “shrimp on treadmills” project designed to determine how weakened metabolisms impairing the mobility in crustaceans exposed to bacteria makes them less likely to be eaten; and another government funded experiment in which tiny transmitters were attached to (flightless) Mormon crickets to determine how far they can walk in a day in order to track their migration patterns.
Defenders of the latter pointed out that the Mormon crickets play an important role in providing food for wildlife out west and learning more about their migrations permits land managers to "pinpoint pesticide applications, reducing exposure of non-target species."