Genesis Prize Chairman highlights immense role of Jewish scientists and doctors in combatting the pandemic: “A very proud moment for the entire Jewish community”
January 19, 2022, Jerusalem – Today, The Genesis Prize Foundation announced Dr. Albert Bourla, Chairman and CEO of Pfizer, as the 2022 Genesis Prize Laureate. Dr. Bourla received the largest number of votes in a recently concluded global campaign, during which 200,000 people in 71 countries voted online. The choice of the voters was unanimously endorsed by the nine judges on the Genesis Prize Selection Committee.
The Committee commended Dr. Bourla for his leadership, determination, and especially for his willingness to assume great risks. Unlike CEOs of most other major companies working on developing COVID-19 vaccines, Dr. Bourla declined billions of dollars in US federal subsidies in order to avoid government bureaucracy and expedite development and production of the vaccine. As a result, Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine was ready in record time: months instead of years.
The Committee also noted Dr. Bourla’s pride in his Jewish identity and heritage, commitment to Jewish values and support for the State of Israel.
The annual $1 million Genesis Prize, dubbed the “Jewish Nobel” by TIME Magazine, honors extraordinary individuals for their outstanding professional achievement, contribution to humanity, and commitment to Jewish values. Dr. Bourla becomes the ninth Genesis Prize Laureate. He follows filmmaker and philanthropist Steven Spielberg, who was awarded the Genesis Prize in 2021, and the legendary human rights activist Natan Sharansky, the 2020 Laureate.
The President of Israel Isaac Herzog will present the Genesis Prize to Dr. Bourla at a ceremony in Jerusalem planned for June 29.
In line with the tradition established by the inaugural Laureate Michael Bloomberg, all Genesis Prize honorees have chosen to forgo the monetary award to philanthropic causes. Dr. Bourla has asked The Genesis Prize Foundation to direct his $1 million prize award to projects aimed at preserving the memory of the victims of the Holocaust, with a particular emphasis on the tragedy suffered by the Greek Jewish community.
Born in Thessaloniki, Greece, Dr. Bourla was raised in a family that knew the horrors of the Holocaust first-hand. His parents were among only 2,000 survivors out of a once-thriving, ancient Jewish community of 50,000, almost completely wiped out by the Nazis.
“I am delighted to welcome Dr. Albert Bourla to the distinguished family of Genesis Prize Laureates,” said Co-Founder and Chairman of The Genesis Prize Foundation Stan Polovets. “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.”
Dr. Albert Bourla said: “I did not set out to live a public life, and I never could have imagined that I might one day receive the profound honor of the Genesis Prize and stand alongside my extraordinary fellow nominees. I accept it humbly and on behalf of all my Pfizer colleagues who answered the urgent call of history these past two years and together bent the arc of our common destiny. 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. I look forward to being in Jerusalem to accept this honor in person, which symbolizes the triumph of science and a great hope for our future.”
In announcing the selection of Dr. Bourla, The Genesis Prize Foundation noted the wide-ranging contribution of numerous Jewish scientists, doctors, and healthcare officials in helping to save lives during the COVID-19 pandemic. The Foundation specifically highlighted the contributions
of the following individuals:
- 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;
- Mikael Dolsten, Chief Scientific Officer, Pfizer, who guided the development of the Pfizer vaccine in record time;
- Tal Zaks, Chief Medical Officer of Moderna during the development of the successful mRNA 1273 vaccine;
- Joanne Waldstreicher, Chief Medical Officer of Johnson & Johnson, which delivered a successful COVID-19 vector vaccine;
- Academician Alexander Gintsburg, Director, Gamaleya Institute for Epidemiology and Microbiology, which developed the Sputnik vaccine;
- Anatoly Altstein, Chief Scientist at the Gamaleya Institute for Epidemiology and Microbiology, who led the development of the Sputnik vaccine;
- Rochelle Walensky, Director, US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which coordinates the US public health response to the pandemic;
- Jeffrey Zients, the White House Coronavirus Response Coordinator, who oversees the US federal government response to the pandemic, including vaccine distribution.
Genesis Prize Chairman Stan Polovets said: “This is a very proud moment, not just for Dr. Bourla, but for the entire Jewish community. A people so small in number are having such an outsized impact on this global effort to save lives.”
Polovets added: “Dr. Bourla is a bright star in the constellation of outstanding Jewish scientists and doctors at the forefront of fighting the pandemic. We hope that these extraordinary individuals, and their colleagues, join us in Jerusalem to further unite in our common resolve to save lives and honor our heritage.”
About the Genesis Prize
The Genesis Prize is a global award that celebrates Jewish achievement and contribution to humanity. Launched in 2013, the Prize is financed through a permanent endowment of $100 million established by The Genesis Prize Foundation.
Previous Genesis Prize laureates are former New York City Mayor and philanthropist Michael Bloomberg (2014); actor, producer and peace activist Michael Douglas (2015); Itzhak Perlman, virtuoso violinist and advocate for individuals with special needs (2016); sculptor and advocate for the rights of refugees Sir Anish Kapoor (2017); Oscar-winning actress and social activist Natalie Portman (2018); owner of New England Patriots and founder of a new foundation to combat antisemitism Robert Kraft (2019); legendary Jewish leader and human rights activist Natan Sharansky (2020) and filmmaker Steven Spielberg (2021). In 2018, The Genesis Prize Foundation honored U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg with its inaugural Lifetime Achievement Award for her contribution to social justice and equal rights. In 2021, the late Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks was honored with a posthumous Lifetime Achievement Award in recognition of his illustrious life-long work as a teacher of Jewish values and proponent of inter-religious and intercultural dialogue.
All previous Laureates have re-gifted their monetary awards to philanthropic causes about which they are passionate. The $1 million prize award, along with matching funds, have been donated in their honor to various initiatives, including: support of social entrepreneurship based on Jewish values, inclusiveness of intermarried families in Jewish life, improving the lives of individuals with special needs, helping to alleviate the global refugee crisis, advancing women’s equality, combatting antisemitism and efforts to delegitimize the State of Israel, assistance to those affected by the COVID pandemic, and non-profits fighting for racial and economic justice in the United States.
Since inception in 2013, The Genesis Prize has leveraged the annual $1 million award into philanthropic initiatives totaling $45 million, with grants going to 197 nonprofit programs in 31 countries, directly impacting the lives of tens of thousands of people.
About Dr. Albert Bourla
As Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, Albert Bourla leads Pfizer in its purpose, Breakthroughs that change patients’ lives, with a focus on driving the scientific and commercial innovation needed to have a transformational impact on human health.
During his more than 25 years at Pfizer, Albert has built a diverse and successful career, holding several senior positions across a range of markets and disciplines. The global nature of his work – having lived and worked in eight different cities and led teams across five continents – has informed his understanding of the needs of patients and healthcare systems around the world and deepened his commitment to helping ensure equitable access to medicines and vaccines.
When he took the reins as CEO in January 2019, Albert accelerated Pfizer’s transformation to become a more science-driven, innovative company – divesting its consumer and off-patent products businesses and dramatically increasing its R&D budget. To create a culture in which the company’s people and science could thrive, Albert and his leadership team established Pfizer’s Purpose Blueprint, which included four core values: courage, excellence, equity and joy.
A powerful example of Pfizer’s capabilities and culture was seen in the company’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Investing more than $2 billion dollars at-risk, Albert inspired colleagues to deliver a safe and effective vaccine in just eight months – a process that typically take 8-10 years – without compromising quality or integrity. A year later, continuing to move at the speed of science, Pfizer delivered the first FDA-authorized oral antiviral treatment for COVID-19 by implementing the same sense of urgency and new ways of working that had made the vaccine program so successful. The company is now applying many of these “lightspeed” principles to projects across a wide range of therapeutic areas, including cancer, cardiovascular disease, inflammatory conditions and more.
Under Albert’s leadership, Pfizer also has further strengthened its commitment to Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) principles. This includes issuing the biopharmaceutical industry’s first Sustainability Bond addressing capital investments in both environmental and social initiatives; launching the company’s first ESG report; and completing an extensive priority issue assessment to confirm where and how Pfizer can have the greatest long-term impact.
Albert is a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine and holds a Ph.D. in the Biotechnology of Reproduction from the Veterinary School of Aristotle University. In 2021, he was named CEO of the Year by CNN Business, included in Insider Magazine’s Most Transformative CEOs list, and inducted into the Crain’s New York Business 2021 Hall of Fame. That same year, he received the Appeal of Conscience Award in recognition of his extraordinary leadership in service of the global community and The Atlantic Council’s Distinguished Business Leadership Award for his and Pfizer’s work on the COVID-19 vaccine. He is on the executive committee of The Partnership for New York City, a vice president of the International Federation of Pharmaceutical Manufacturers & Associations, a director on multiple boards – Pfizer, Inc., The Pfizer Foundation, PhRMA, and Catalyst – and a Trustee of the United States Council for International Business. In addition, Albert is a member of the Business Roundtable, the Business Council and the New York City Mayor’s Corporate Council.