The 19th edition of BioAsia organised by the government of Telangana and the Federation of Asian Biotech Associations [FABA] has announced that the Genome Valley Excellence Award for the year 2022 will be conferred upon Dr Drew Weissman, MD, PhD. The award has been announced in recognition for his breakthrough pioneering research and development of effective mRNA COVID-19 vaccine, that has helped save billions of lives globally, FABA and BioAsia, along with the Government of Telangana, said in a statement.
Dr Weissman is a Professor at the Department of Medicine, Perelman School of Medicine, University of Pennsylvania. He is also acknowledged for his contributions to the development of various vaccines, including COVID-19, universal flu vaccine, herpes vaccine, etc, besides several other therapeutic developments. He is also a Lasker-DeBakey 2021 and the Breakthrough Prize in Life Sciences 2022 awardee, the statement notified.
The statement further mentioned that Dr Weismann’s efforts, in collaboration with fellow scientists, led to his discovery of the ability of modified nucleosides in RNA to suppress activation of innate immune sensors and increase the translation of mRNA containing certain modified nucleosides. The nucleoside-modified mRNA-lipid nanoparticle vaccine platform, Dr Weissman’s lab created, is used in the first two approved COVID-19 vaccines by Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna. They continue to develop other vaccines that induce potent antibody and T cell responses with mRNA-based vaccines. He is also known for his work in cancer therapeutics, protein therapeutics and gene therapy. Dr Weissman’s lab develops methods to replace genetically-deficient proteins, edit the genome, and specifically target cells and organs with mRNA-LNPs, including lung, heart, brain, CD4+ cells, all T cells, and bone marrow stem cells.
Speaking on the announcement of the 2022 Genome Valley Excellence Award, KT Rama Rao, Minister for Industries and Commerce, Government of Telangana, said, “The Genome Valley Excellence Award is one of the most coveted awards bestowed upon the most exemplary achievers in the global life sciences community. This year, we are honoured to present the award to Dr Drew Weissman for his pioneering research and development of mRNA COVID-19 vaccine that has been administered to billions saving their lives. Dr Weissman’s perseverance is worth inspiring thousands of researchers in the life science fraternity and under his leadership, the Perelman School of Medicine, University of Pennsylvania, has made tremendous achievements.”
Adding to it, Jayesh Ranjan, Principal Secretary (I&C), Government of Telangana, said in the statement, “……Albeit virtually, I am sure his participation will inspire the younger generation to pursue science and engage more actively with the research world that focusses on applied research rather than the armchair research. As we look forward to our youth and future generations to shoulder much of the scientific, economic and social progress, we need to encourage them to take up research that finds a purpose in moments of crisis such as these, and Dr Weissman is a perfect role model for this.”
Shakthi M Nagappan, CEO, BioAsia, and Director, lifesciences and pharma, Government of Telangana, said, “Over the years, the Genome Valley Excellence Award has been awarded to individuals with extraordinary merit – be it individuals or organisations, for their valuable contribution to the lifesciences research and public health. This year too, we are honoured to confer the award upon Dr Drew Weissman whose discovery of mRNA COVID-19 vaccine helped the world combat one of the worst health challenges the human kind has ever faced.”