Five outstanding researchers, four of whom are from Europe, were recognised at the first Marie Curie Excellence Awards, held in Brussels on 4 November. EU Research Commissioner Philippe Busquin presented the prizes, amounting to 50,000 euro each, to five scientists who have achieved significant research breakthroughs with the aid of the EU's Marie Curie fellowships and grants. The winners are Paola Barbara Arimondo (UK) for her work on cancer research, Daniel Bonn (Netherlands) for his work on complex fluids, Leticia Fernanda Cugliandolo (Argentina) for her work on equilibrium dynamics, Marco Dorigo (Italy) for his work on ants' organisation, and Luis Serrano Pubull (Spain) for his work on biological systems. Congratulating the winners, Mr Busquin said that the awards would contribute to their international recognition and are part of the EU's drive to halt the 'brain drain' of research talent from Europe to the US: 'We train world-class researchers in Europe, but then we are not always able to offer them competitive salaries, good working conditions and stimulating projects. The Marie Curie Awards [aim] at making European researchers proud of their profession, in the broader framework of our initiatives to improve researchers' status in Europe.' Under the Sixth Framework Programme (FP6), the overall budget for Marie Curie actions (human resources and mobility is 1.58 billion euro. The Marie Curie schemes are mainly focused towards either the training of researchers at the start of their careers, or the exchange of staff in order to create partnerships and transfer knowledge within Europe. The Marie Curie host fellowships allow young researchers to take up fixed-term posts advertised by various types of research institutions within Europe. The five award winners have all availed of one of these Marie Curie actions, which entitled them to enter the competition. A total of 84 eligible proposals were submitted to the competition and evaluated with the help of 63 independent experts. The final shortlist was made by the Marie Curie Grand Jury, an international panel of six members under the chairmanship of Professor Hélène Langevin-Joliot, a prominent French physicist and granddaughter of Marie Curie. Some 71 of the 84 eligible proposals were submitted by candidates from EU Member States, nine submissions came from accession countries and four from non-European countries. 61 proposals were submitted by men and 23 by women. As disciplines, 26 proposals concerned life sciences, followed by 21 for physics, nine for engineering, eight for environmental sciences and mathematics, five for chemistry, four for economics and three for social sciences and humanities. Given the success of the first Marie Curie awards, the initiative will continue, with a maximum of five prizes being awarded every year.