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Transplant groups win Spanish Prince of Asturias award for International Cooperation

MADRID (AP) — Two organizations that have worked together to promote a global strategy for ethical organ donations were awarded Spain's Prince of Asturias award for international cooperation on Wednesday.

The international Transplantation Society and Spain's National Transplant Organization received the award "for their crucial work in establishing the medical and ethical principles that govern clinical care and scientific research on organ transplantation," the Prince of Asturias Foundation said on its website.

It is one of eight Asturias prizes granted each year in categories including arts, literature, communications, sports and scientific research. The awards are among Spain's most prestigious and are presented by Prince Felipe each fall in Oviedo.

Rafael Matesanz , director of the National Transplant Organization, said the award was welcome recognition for the work both groups have done.

"This is proving crucial for the establishment of new legislation in countries that did not have any, for the fight against transplant tourism and organ trafficking and for the promotion of donations and transplantations for the entire world," he said.

Spain's state-run National Transplant Organization was founded in 1980 and coordinates the donation, extraction, preservation, distribution, exchange, and transplantation of organs, tissues, and cells within the Spanish health care system.

Since its creation, the rate of donors in Spain has increased 280 percent, and over 70,000 solid organ transplants and 200,000 tissue and cell transplants have been performed, the Asturias foundation said.

The Transplantation Society, which has its international headquarters in Montreal, Canada, was founded in 1966 at a New York Academy of Sciences conference. It now has 4,500 members worldwide and stages international congresses every two years, the foundation said in a biographical note.

Transplantation Society President Dr. Jeremy Chapman said in a statement that the award "recognizes, respects and honors all organ and tissue donors across the world for the new chance of life that they provide to others in desperate need."

The prizes include cash stipends of $50,000 ($70,000) and a sculpture by artist Joan Miro.