Philip Felgner, UCI professor in residence of physiology & biophysics and director of the campus’s Vaccine Research and Development Center
“Winning the Princess of Asturias award is important to me because it recognizes that the COVID-19 vaccines are the culmination of decades of work, that prepared science to quickly deliver a safe and effective response to the outbreak,” says Philip Felgner, UCI professor in residence of physiology & biophysics. Steve Zylius / UCI

Irvine, Calif., June 24, 2021 — Philip Felgner, Ph.D., professor in residence of physiology & biophysics at the University of California, Irvine, is one of seven scholars worldwide 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, who directs UCI’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.”

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 citation said that the seven are “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 Spanish Crown Princess Leonor. The formal ceremony will be held Oct. 22 in Oviedo, Spain.

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