Congratulations to Dan Barouch, MD, PhD, one of this year’s recipients of the King Faisal Prize! Barouch, a founding member and steering committee member of the Ragon Institute of Mass General, MIT, and Harvard, was jointly awarded the 2023 King Faisal Prize for Medicine with vaccinologist Sarah Gilbert, PhD, of the University of Oxford.
The King Faisal Prize was established in 1979 by the King Faisal Foundation, an international philanthropic organization named after the late king Faisal bin Abdulaziz of Saudi Arabia. The winners of the five categories — Service to Islam, Islamic Studies, Arabic Language & Literature, Medicine, and Science — are chosen by international selection committees. The King Faisal Prize in Medicine was first awarded in 1982.
Barouch and Gilbert were chosen for their work on COVID-19 viral vector vaccines. Barouch, also the founding director of the Center for Virology and Vaccine Research at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School, led the early development of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. The vaccine, developed in 13 months and administered to hundreds of millions of people worldwide, uses a genetically modified form of the harmless adenovirus Ad26. The adenovirus carries genetic code for the coronavirus spike protein and enables the immune system to create antibodies against COVID-19. Despite being associated with an extremely rare risk of thrombotic thrombocytopenia syndrome, a serious condition involving blood clots, the Johnson & Johnson vaccine has undoubtedly saved numerous lives and is an option for those who do not have access to or cannot be vaccinated with mRNA vaccines. Its one-shot design and ability to be stored long-term at normal refrigeration temperatures have made it useful worldwide.
Barouch’s COVID-19 vaccine work drew from his lab’s research and clinical trials on developing vaccine candidates for other global pathogens, including HIV, Zika, and tuberculosis. He was first to demonstrate Zika vaccine protection in preclinical studies and in phase 1 clinical trials.
This year, a total of eight distinguished scholars were named recipients of the King Faisal Prize for contributions that have made a positive difference in the world. More information on this year’s laureates is available at the King Faisal Foundation’s website.