Dr. John N. Nkengasong, a leading virologist from Camaroon in west central Africa who serves as the director of the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC), will receive the $100,000 2021 BMI Prize for solutions to global challenges. The prize is awarded by the Boris Mints Institute (BMI) for Strategic Policy Solutions to Global Challenges at Tel Aviv University (TAU)
The $100,000 prize is being presented to Nkangasong for his exceptional public health leadership throughout the battle against COVID-19 and for his calls for vaccine accessibility — which is becoming increasingly critical. The awarding of the prize underscores the Boris Mints Institute’s global thinking and its commitment to solving the most burning issues of our time. The award will be presented on Sunday, October 17th in a virtual event to be attended by TAU president Prof. Ariel Porat.
Nkangasong was the first to characterize all the genetic subtypes of the HIV (AIDS) virus in Africa. By doing so, he became a world-renowned medical researcher, and is considered one of the leading virologists in the field of AIDS research. In 1993, he joined the World Health Organization, serving as chief virologist. The Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention were established by the African Union in 2017. Their goal is to support public health initiatives in member states and strengthen local capacity to deal with disease threats.
The Boris Mints Institute for Strategic Policy Solutions to Global Challenges was founded in 2015 within the department of public policy in the Gordon Faculty of Social Sciences. Its goal is to encourage research and the formulation of innovative policy solutions that will bring about positive change in the world. The prize money will help make it possible for Nkangasong to continue his important work.
Launched in 2017, the BMI Prize is awarded annually to an exceptional individual who has devoted his/her research and academic life to the solution of a strategic global challenge and whose research, public action and ideas have made a transformative impact on global policy formation and contributed to the welfare of a significant number of communities worldwide.
Among the previous prize recipients is Prof. Michael Kremer of the University of Chicago, who shortly after receiving the BMI Prize won the Nobel Prize in Economics.
Nkangasong was appointed as the first director of the Africa CDC, (Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), a specialized technical institution of the African Union established to support public health initiatives of Member States and strengthen the capacity of their public health institutions to detect, prevent, control and respond quickly and effectively to disease threats. This body has played an important role in the fight against the coronavirus on the African continent.
Some of Nkangasong’s vital activities have included the decisive condemnation he issued in response to racist statements suggesting that the COVID vaccine be tested in Africa; leading the distribution of testing kits across the continent; dealing with criticism by the president of Tanzania claiming that the tests are flawed, and above all, overseeing the cooperation between African countries in dealing with the pandemic, including with regards to procurement and information.
During the pandemic, Nkangasong was appointed as the World Health Organization envoy to African countries, a position which he still holds. He was recently selected by TIME Magazine as one of the 100 most influential people in the world.
His efforts have helped bring the African response to the coronavirus pandemic to a satisfactory level, but Nkangasong says he does not intend to rest until there is a fair distribution of vaccines among the various African countries, most of whom suffer from poverty and harsh conditions even during routine times. Under Nkangasong’s leadership, the Africa CDC has become a household name and a respected scientific institution both within and outside of the continent.
The awarding of the prize to Dr. Nkangasong by the Boris Mints Institute at Tel Aviv University signifies recognition and appreciation for his efforts; the prize money will help make it possible for him to continue his important work.