JERUSALEM ( Associated Press) — Albert Boerla, president and chief executive of global pharmaceutical giant Pfizer Inc., was awarded the coveted Genesis Award on Wednesday for his efforts in the development of a COVID-19 vaccine.
The $1 million prize is awarded to each individual for their professional achievements, contribution to humanity, and commitment to Jewish values. The Genesis Prize Foundation said that Baurla had received the most votes in an online campaign, which attracted nearly 200,000 people from 71 countries.
It commended him for his “leadership, determination and especially his willingness to take great risks”. It cited Pfizer’s decision to cut off US government funding early in the pandemic, a decision that helped the company reduce bureaucracy and accelerate vaccine development.
Its partner, BioNTech, received funding from the German government, and Pfizer later signed a major supply contract with the United States. The strategy has put Pfizer at the forefront of global efforts to fight the coronavirus, with its vaccines authorized for use in the US and Europe.
The Greek-born Borla, son of Holocaust survivors, plans to donate his prize to projects aimed at preserving the memory of Holocaust victims, the foundation said. Bourla’s parents were among the few survivors of Thessaloniki’s Jewish community, which was wiped out by the Nazis during World War II.
In a statement released by the foundation, Bourla said he was accepting the award “humbly and on behalf of all my Pfizer colleagues who responded to history’s urgent call.”
“I grew up in a Jewish family that believed that each of us was as strong as the bonds of our community; And that we are all called by God to repair the world,” he said.
Pfizer’s vaccine was the first to receive US approval for emergency use in December 2020, and Israel quickly became one of the first countries to vaccinate its population with the vaccine. It later entered into an agreement with the drugmaker to exchange a vast repository of data In exchange for a steady supply of a hard vaccine with the company.
The deal helped transform Israel into an early global leader in the fight against COVID-19 and has provided valuable data for researchers – although it was criticized by some on grounds of privacy and the rich and poor Disparities in access to vaccines were highlighted between Country.
Borla joins a list of business leaders, artists and entertainers to win the award. Last year’s winner was Hollywood mogul Steven Spielberg.
Past winners have included businessman and former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, actor Michael Douglas, violinist Itzak Perlman, sculptor Sir Anish Kapoor, actress Natalie Portman; New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft and former Soviet political prisoner Natan Sharansky.
In 2018, Portman canceled the award ceremony because she did not want to support then-prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu. In the same year, a special lifetime achievement award was presented to the late US Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
The prize was inaugurated in 2014 and is run in partnership between the Private Genesis Prize Foundation and the President’s Office of the Jewish Agency, a non-profit group that has close ties to the Israeli government. It is funded by a $100 million endowment set up by the Foundation.
The prize is usually presented each June at a dinner hosted by the Prime Minister of Israel in Jerusalem. But the ceremony has been called off in the last two years due to the pandemic.
Baurla said he hopes to travel to Jerusalem this summer for the event.