Albert Bourla, chairman and CEO of Pfizer, has been awarded the 2022 Genesis Prize for his “leadership, determination and especially for his willingness to assume great risks” in developing a coronavirus vaccine in record time.
The Genesis Foundation recognises individuals for their contribution to humanity and commitment to Jewish values.
Bourla received the largest number of votes in an online campaign in which 200,000 people in 71 countries participated. The award comes with a $1m prize.
Unlike other CEOs working to develop COVID-19 vaccines, Bourla declined billions of dollars in United States federal subsidies in order to avoid government bureaucracy and speed up production of the vaccine, a statement from Genesis said.
“Dr. Bourla personifies two of the most fundamental Jewish values: the commitment to the sanctity of life and to repairing the world. And while the pandemic is far from over, millions of people are alive and healthy because of what Dr. Bourla and his team at Pfizer have accomplished,” said Genesis Prize Foundation Chairman Stan Polovets in a statement.
Bourla said in a statement that he is accepting the award on behalf of all his Pfizer colleagues “who answered the urgent call of history these past two years and together bent the arc of our common destiny”.
Born in Thessaloniki, Greece, Bourla has a personal connection to Jewish heritage. His parents were among only 2,000 survivors of an ancient Jewish community of 50,000, almost completely wiped out by the Nazis.
He wrote on Twitter that the $1m prize is being donated to “the Jewish Community of Thessaloniki — in memory of my parents, the values of life and community that they passed on to me and in remembrance of the Holocaust in Greece”.
He has donated the $1m prize award to “the Jewish Community of Thessaloniki — in memory of my parents, the values of life and community that they passed on to me and in remembrance of the Holocaust in Greece”, Bourla wrote on Twitter.
“I was brought up in a Jewish family who believed that each of us is only as strong as the bonds of our community; and that we are all called upon by God to repair the world,” Bourla said.
He is the ninth Genesis Prize laureate. Other recipients include filmmaker and philanthropist Steven Spielberg, Oscar-winning actress and social activist Natalie Portman, human rights activist Natan Sharansky, and former New York City mayor and media mogul Michael Bloomberg. All previous laureates have regifted their monetary awards to philanthropic causes.
Israel’s President Isaac Herzog will present the Genesis Prize to Bourla at a ceremony in Jerusalem in June.
The Genesis Prize Foundation highlighted the contribution of numerous other Jewish scientists, doctors, and healthcare officials that helped save lives during the coronavirus pandemic. They include Drew Weissman, professor of vaccine research at the University of Pennsylvania, whose discovery of a novel nucleoside-modified mRNA platform enabled the creation of pioneering mRNA vaccines, and Rochelle Walensky, director of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which coordinates the US public health response to the pandemic, among others.