UCI infectious disease researcher wins international prize for COVID-19 vaccine design

Philip Felgner is one of seven to win Spain's prestigious Princess of Asturias award for scientific research

June 24, 2021
Philip Felgner, PhD, UCI infectious disease expert, wins international award for contributing to the design of COVID-19 vaccines.

“I’m proud to be included with six other eminent recipients who’ve been working for decades preparing their science to be responsive to the COVID outbreak at this moment,” Philip Felgner, PhD, director of the UCI School of Medicine's Vaccine Research and Development Center, said of winning the Princess of Asturias award. “The prize gives me the opportunity to reward my team for their years of dedication and commitment.” Photo by Steve Zylius / UCI

UCI infectious disease expert Philip Felgner, PhD, is one of seven scholars to win Spain’s prestigious Princess of Asturias Award for Technical and Scientific Research in recognition of their contributions to designing COVID-19 vaccines.

“It is a great honor, and I am so happy the jury selected me for this distinguished award,” said Felgner, a professor of physiology & biophysics who directs the UCI School of Medicine's Vaccine Research and Development Center.

“It gives me the opportunity to reward my team for their years of dedication and commitment. I’m proud to be included with six other eminent recipients who’ve been working for decades preparing their science to be responsive to the COVID outbreak at this moment.”

Felgner and his team developed a COVID-19 coronavirus antigen microarray capable of analyzing a simple finger stick blood test and deliver results within 10 minutes at very low cost. It is one of the most accurate antigen microarrays in the world because of Felgner's years of extensive research on coronaviruses.

The panel also chose Hungarian biochemist Katalin Karikó; Dr. Drew Weissman, professor of medicine at the University of Pennsylvania; BioNTech CEO Uğur Şahin and Chief Medical Officer Özlem Türeci from Germany; Canadian stem cell biologist Derrick Rossi; and Sarah Gilbert, Saïd Professor of Vaccinology at the University of Oxford.

The jury's citation described the awardees as “leading figures in one of the most outstanding feats in the history of science. Their work constitutes a prime example of pure research for the protection of public health the world over. Both the development of novel messenger RNA technology and the production of adenovirus-based vaccines open a path of hope for their use against other diseases.”

The $60,000 (50,000 euros) award is one of eight Asturias prizes — in such categories as the arts, social sciences, literature and sports — bestowed each year by the Princess of Asturias Foundation, named for 15-year-old Crown Princess Leonor of Spain. The formal ceremony will be held Oct. 22 in Oviedo, Spain.


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