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(Left to right): Professor Nada Kakabadse, Dr Ugur Sahin and Dr Ozlem Tureci
Posted on 10th November 2021
First coronavirus vaccine scientists win Empress Theophano Prize

Nada Kakabadse, Professor of Policy, Governance and Ethics at Henley Business School, and a member of the Theophano Foundation’s Governing Council, reports on the organisation’s ‘Empress Theophano Prize’ 2021 award ceremony.

The Empress Theophano Prize recognises personalities who promote modern European principles, values and identity, and also those who improve understanding of the diverse historic interdependencies within Europe.

Attended by Greek President, Katerina Sakellaropoulou, this year’s Award ceremony took place on 14th October, 2021, and was presented to Dr. Uğur Şahin and Dr. Özlem Türeci, the scientist couple who developed the first vaccine against the coronavirus.

BioNTech, which Dr. Sahin founded with his wife, Dr. Özlem Türeci, originally focused the majority of its efforts on cancer treatments before Covid-19 existed.

However, in November 2020 BioNTech and Pfizer announced that a vaccine for the coronavirus, developed by Dr. Sahin and his team, was more than 90% effective in preventing the disease among trial volunteers who had no evidence of having previously been infected. These stunning results vaulted BioNTech and Pfizer to the front of the race to find a cure for the disease.

Presented by the Theophano Foundation at the Rotunda Monument in Thessaloniki, Greece - a site symbolising the Roman, Byzantine, Christian Orthodox, Ottoman and Greek influences which have shaped Europe, the occasion also featured a new round table initiative titled: “Securing future wellbeing through science.”

In addition to the two prize Theophano prize winners, the discussion also welcomed the views of leading European voices, including Margaritis Schinas, Vice President of the European Commission for Promoting the European Way of Life, and members of the Foundation's Advisory Committee: Mary McAleese, former President of Ireland and Professor of Children, Religion and Law at the University of Glasgow; Maria Luisa Poncela, former Secretary of State for Trade and Secretary General for Science and Innovation of Spain; Georges Prevelakis, Professor Emeritus of Paris-Sorbonne University, and Chiara Saraceno, Honorary Fellow of Collegio Alberto and the University of Turin.

Chaired by Professor Stefan Schepers, a member of the Theophano Foundation’s Governing Council, the group debated key topics of concern facing humanity in the decades to come, with a particular emphasis placed on the role of how science can benefit the common good, European innovation, competitiveness, education and healthy living.

The Empress Theophano Prize was first awarded in 2020, with the Erasmus student exchange program being the inaugural recipient for its role in shaping future European citizens.

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