Pfizer CEO awarded Genesis Prize for efforts to combat COVID-19

The $1 million Genesis Prize, launched in 2013, honors extraordinary people for their professional achievements. Dr. Albert Bourla was chosen as this year's Genesis Prize Laureate.

 Pfizer CEO and Chairman Dr. Albert Bourla (photo credit: Joshua Jordan)
Pfizer CEO and Chairman Dr. Albert Bourla
(photo credit: Joshua Jordan)

Pfizer CEO Dr. Albert Bourla was announced as the 2022 Genesis Prize Laureate on Wednesday morning by the Genesis Prize Foundation.

"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," Bourla said of his award. "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."

The Genesis Prize Selection Committee recognized his "leadership, determination and especially his willingness to assume great risks," according to the foundation.

Bourla, a Jewish man who heads one of the largest medical companies in the world, has a deep connection to his identity and heritage and has been consistent in his support for Israel. He will be the ninth Genesis Prize Laureate, following Steven Spielberg who was awarded the prize in 2021.

He received the most votes in a recently concluded global campaign, during which 200,000 people in 71 countries voted online. The voters' choice was endorsed by the nine judges on the Genesis Prize Selection Committee. 

THOUGH PRIME MINISTER Benjamin Netanyahu has touted his close relationship with Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla (on April 23), Levy was the one to sign the first contract for eight million doses. (credit: JOHN THYS/POOL VIA REUTERS)THOUGH PRIME MINISTER Benjamin Netanyahu has touted his close relationship with Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla (on April 23), Levy was the one to sign the first contract for eight million doses. (credit: JOHN THYS/POOL VIA REUTERS)

Bourla will be given the award by President Isaac Herzog in a ceremony slated for June 29 in Jerusalem. He expressed his excitement about coming to Jerusalem to accept the award in person.

The $1 million Genesis Prize, launched in 2013, honors extraordinary people for their professional achievements, as well as contributing to humanity and commitment to their own Jewish values. Laureates traditionally give their prize money to philanthropic causes, and Bourla is no different; he has asked the foundation to give his prize to projects aimed at preserving the memory of Holocaust victims, putting a particular emphasis on his own Greek Jewish community.

Indeed, Bourla's parents were among the few survivors of the Greek Jewish community that was wiped out by the Nazis during the Holocaust. Bourla himself was born in Thessaloniki, Greece.

"Dr. Bourla personifies two of the most fundamental Jewish values: the commitment to the sanctity of life and to repairing the world," said Genesis Prize Foundation co-founder and chairman Stan Polovets. "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."

In announcing his selection, The foundation noted the wide-ranging contribution of numerous Jewish scientists, doctors and healthcare officials in helping to save lives during the COVID-19 pandemic. It specifically highlighted the contributions of the following individuals:

  • Dr. 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,
  • Dr. Mikael Dolsten, Chief Scientific Officer, Pfizer, who guided the development of the Pfizer vaccine in record time,
  • Dr. Tal Zaks, Chief Medical Officer of Moderna during the development of the successful mRNA 1273 vaccine;
  • Dr. Joanne Waldstreicher, Chief Medical Officer of Johnson & Johnson, which delivered a successful COVID-19 vector vaccine,
  • Academician Alexander Gintsburg, director of the Gamaleya Institute for Epidemiology and Microbiology, which developed the Sputnik vaccine,
  • Dr. Anatoly Altstein, Chief Scientist at Gamaleya, who led Sputnik's development,
  • Dr. Rochelle Walensky, Director, US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which coordinates the US public health response to the pandemic, and
  • Jeffrey Zients, the White House Coronavirus Response Coordinator, who oversees the US federal government response to the pandemic, including vaccine distribution.