Anthony Fauci, the top U.S. public health official on infectious diseases, has won the 2021 Dan David Prize – one of the most prestigious Israeli academic awards – in the public health category for his work during the coronavirus pandemic.
Fauci now serves as chief medical advisor to President Joe Biden.
The internationally renowned prize was established by late businessman and philanthropist Dan David and is administered by Tel Aviv University.
It annually honors “outstanding contributions of globally inspiring individuals and organizations that expand knowledge of the past, enrich society in the present, and promise to improve the future of our world,” according to organizers.
The Dan David Foundation awards $1 million prizes in three categories – past, present and future – for scientific, technological and cultural accomplishments. Each laureate is then required to donate 10 percent of their award money to scholarships for graduate or postgraduate researchers in their respective fields.
Dr. Fauci, who also leads the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) has been named a recipient for “reflecting the global focus on the COVID-19 crisis and the immense efforts the scientific community continues to undertake for the betterment of global health.”
As the lead member of the Trump administration's White House Coronavirus Task Force established in January 2020 to address the coronavirus crisis in the United States, Fauci quickly became a spokesperson for the government on matters relating to the pandemic.
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He has been a strong advocate for social distancing and mask wearing, which earned him much tension with former President Donald Trump who tried to downplay the dangers of the virus and push for the reopening of the economy.
For months, Fauci disagreed with Trump and often had to contradict him during press conferences. Fauci even told the New York Times in an interview in January that he and his wife had received many death threats in recent months. Fauci has been an adviser to every U.S. president since Ronald Reagan.
The Dan David Prize committee commended Dr. Fauci for “his exceptional contribution to HIV research, for being the architect of the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, saving millions of lives in the developing world” as well as his leadership at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and for “courageously defending science in the face of uninformed opposition during the challenging COVID crisis.”
Fauci’s fellow laureates include health and medicine historians Prof. Alison Bashford, Prof. Katharine Park, and Prof. Keith Wailoo in the field of History of Health and Medicine in the past category and Prof. Zelig Eshhar, Prof. Carl June, and Dr. Steven Rosenberg, three pioneers of an anti-cancer immunotherapy, in the future category.
The seven laureates will receive the award in an online ceremony in May.
Past winners of the prize include cellist Yo-Yo Ma in 2006; former U.S. Vice President Al Gore in 2008; co-discoverer of the AIDS virus, Prof. Robert Gallo in 2009; and novelist Margaret Atwood in 2010.
Ariel David, director of the Dan David Foundation (Note: David writes for Haaretz on archaeology and other topics), said that this year’s laureates “have probed how humanity has dealt with sickness and pandemics throughout history; they have provided relief, guidance and leadership in dealing with current outbreaks – from AIDS to Ebola and the novel coronavirus – and they are at the forefront of discovering new treatments that give us hope for the future in the ongoing battle against cancer and other diseases."