Albert Bourla, Pfizer’s Chief Executive Officer awarded a $1 Million prestigious Genesis Prize, dubbed the “Jewish Nobel,” for his leadership, determination, and especially for his achievements in the development of a COVID-19 vaccine.
The annual Genesis Prize recognizes Jewish extraordinary individuals for their professional accomplishments, contributions to mankind, and adherence to Jewish principles. Dr. Bourla is the seventh recipient of the Genesis Prize.
According to the Genesis Prize Foundation, Dr. Bourla received the the largest number of votes in an online campaign that drew more than 200,000 participants from 71 countries.
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It referenced Pfizer’s early choice to decline Federal US 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.
BioNTech, with which Pfizer partnered, gained support from the German government, and Pfizer eventually inked a substantial supply contract with the US. Pfizer was positioned at the forefront of worldwide efforts to combat the coronavirus, with their vaccine being the first to receive approval in the United States and Europe.
Bourla was born in Greece, the son of parents who were among the few survivors of Thessaloniki’s Jewish community, which was wiped out during World War II by the Nazis.
Bourla joins a distinguished group of business leaders, artists, and entertainers who have previously won the honor. Steven Spielberg, the Hollywood magnate was the winner last year.
Previous winners include businessman and former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, actor Michael Douglas, musician Itzhak Perlman, sculptor Sir Anish Kapoor, actress Natalie Portman, and New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft.
In line with the tradition established by Michael Bloomberg, all Genesis Prize honorees have chosen to forgo the monetary award to philanthropic causes. Bourla said he wishes to contribute his prize to organizations dedicated to preserving the memory of Holocaust victims, particularly in Greece.
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,” Burla added.
“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,” Burla said.
Pfizer’s vaccine was the first to receive emergency use approval in the United States in December 2020, and Israel swiftly became one of the first countries to immunize its populace. Israel eventually made an agreement with the manufacturer to provide massive amounts of data in exchange for a continuous supply of a then-rare vaccine.
The agreement positioned Israel as an early worldwide leader in the fight against COVID-19 and supplied crucial data for academics — while it was condemned by some for breaching privacy and highlighting discrepancies in vaccination access between wealthy and impoverished countries.
In 2018, Portman opted out of the prize ceremony to avoid appearing to endorse then-Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. The late United States Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg received a special lifetime achievement award the same year.
The prize was established in 2014 and is administered jointly by the private Genesis Prize Foundation and the Jewish Agency’s chairman’s office, a nonprofit organization with close ties to the Israeli government. It is supported by the foundation’s $100 million endowments.
The medal is typically presented in June in Jerusalem at a banquet attended by Israel’s prime minister.