Albert Bourla, chairman and chief executive of global pharmaceutical giant Pfizer Inc, was awarded the prestigious Genesis Prize for his efforts in leading the development of a Covid-19 vaccine.
The one million US dollar award is granted each year to a person for their professional achievements, contributions to humanity and commitment to Jewish values.
The Genesis Prize Foundation said Bourla had received the largest number of votes in an online campaign in which some 200,000 people in 71 countries participated.
It commended him for his “leadership, determination, and especially for his willingness to assume great risks.”
It cited Pfizer’s decision to turn down US government funding early in the pandemic, a decision that helped the company reduce bureaucracy and expedite the development of the vaccine.
Its partner, BioNTech, received funding from the German government, and Pfizer later signed a large supply contract with the United States.
The strategy put Pfizer at the forefront of global efforts to fight the coronavirus, with its vaccine the first to be authorized for use in the US and Europe.
The Greek-born Bourla, the son of Holocaust survivors, plans to donate his prize to projects aimed at preserving the memory of Holocaust victims, especially in Greece, the foundation said.
Bourla’s parents were among the few survivors of Thessaloniki’s Jewish community, which was all but wiped out by the Nazis during the Second World War.
In a statement issued by the foundation, Bourla said he was accepting the prize “humbly and on behalf of all my Pfizer colleagues who answered the urgent call of history.”
“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,” he said.
Pfizer’s vaccine was the first to win US approval for emergency use in December 2020, and Israel quickly became one of the first countries to inoculate its population with the vaccine.