Innovators helping the world fight the deadly COVID-19 pandemic and adapt to a new reality are among the winners of a prestigious science communication award from Novim, the 2021 Alexandra Jane Noble (AJN) Awards. Leaders spearheading the creation of vaccines in record time, the development of AI-powered medical pattern recognition tools, and pioneering video and voice technology are among those recognized in the 2021 AJN Awards.
The awards, now in their fourth year, honor efforts to communicate complex topics in innovative, engaging ways to stimulate higher awareness of scientific issues, particularly in young adults.
Since the inception of the awards, there have been 23 individual awardees, plus six institutions and two commendations. Past winners include actor and science communication advocate Alan Alda and philanthropists John and Tashia Morgridge.
This year’s winners are:
Science Awareness Award – Dr. Vin Gupta, Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington School of Medicine
A Critical Care Pulmonologist and Affiliate Faculty, Dr. Gupta has been one of the Institute’s chief spokespeople during the pandemic. He became an authoritative and tireless presence on the evening news and has given more than 200 COVID-19 briefings.
Science Discovery Award – Pattern Computer Inc. and Mr. Mark Anderson, CEO
Pattern Computer, with its novel Pattern Discovery Engine, has made marked progress on major cancer detection diagnostics, among other contributions. The challenges being addressed by the Pattern team are in fields as diverse as drug discovery, biomedical research, materials science, aerospace manufacturing, veterinary medicine, air traffic operations, and finance.
Science Impact Award – Dr. Katalin Karikó, BioNTech, and Dr. Drew Weissman, University of Pennsylvania
Dr. Karikó and Dr. Weissman played a key role in enabling the biggest vaccination campaign in history. Both the Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna vaccines being administered to protect against COVID-19 license the fundamental mRNA patents for which the duo is responsible.
Science and Society Award – Dr. Marian Croak, Google, and Eric S. Yuan and Zoom Video Communications, Inc.
Dr. Croak, Vice President of Engineering at Google, developed inventions that made phone calls more reliably and securely transmittable over the internet. She is a pioneer in the advancement of Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) used to make phone calls in Skype, Google applications, FaceTime, and more. Yuan, founder and CEO of Zoom Video Communications, Inc., helped make sure children could continue to attend school during shutdowns by offering free use of his product to more than 125,000 K-12 schools in 25 countries.
Science Inspiration Award – Dr. Amanda Randles and Dr. Muath Bishawi, Duke University
The Duke University colleagues made fundamental contributions to engineering the first split ventilator prototype. With ventilators in high demand during the COVID-19 pandemic, Dr. Randles and Dr. Bishawi created a ventilator splitter and resistor system (VSRS) which enables one ventilator to support two or more patients.
This year, for the first time, the AJN Awards Board is also issuing two Certificates of Commendation, for extraordinary efforts and impact on issues around the COVID-19 pandemic. The certificates are:
Science Stewardship Certificate of Commendation – Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
For their prescient role in backing mRNA research for treatment and prevention of infectious diseases, their early endorsement of pandemic responder training symposia for governments, and their strong support for the development and equitable distribution of COVID-19 vaccines over the past twelve months.
Science Communication Certificate of Commendation – Dr. Anthony Fauci, NIAID
As head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), Dr. Fauci has provided forthright discussions and invaluable perspective for Americans throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Novim Group, which oversees the awards, has now honored 23 individual winners, plus six institutions and two commendations. Past winners range from publishers, filmmakers and television personalities, to key technologists and cutting-edge companies, which have impacted society with their scientific contributions.
Charles House, AJN Awards Director, said after a year that will long be etched in mankind’s memory it was especially important to celebrate significant contributions to science communication.
“The rapidity of the pandemic onset, and the unknowns surrounding it, have been a test-case for the world as desperate steps were taken using both current tools and newly-developed methods to combat this fearsome intruder. In a world too often led by science-deniers, science suddenly became the basis for enlightened discussion,” he said.
“We congratulate all of this year’s winners, whose innovations and commitment to effectively communicating science will have a lasting impact on society and serve as an inspiration to future generations.”
This year’s winners will be officially recognized at Stanford mediaX in a mid-summer event.