Original Article

8 March, 2023

The International Vaccine Institute (IVI) and SK bioscience jointly announced Profs. Andrew Pollard / Sarah Gilbert and Rino Rappuoli / Mariagrazia Pizza as two groups of co-recipients of the second IVI – SK bioscience Park ManhHoon Award.

The IVI-SK bioscience Park MahnHoon Award annually honors up to two individuals and/or groups that have made extraordinary contributions to the discovery, development and delivery of vaccines and the advancement of global health. The award was launched in 2022 to commemorate the legacy of the late Vice Chairman Dr. Park MahnHoon of SK bioscience. This year’s award ceremony is scheduled to take place at IVI on April 25, the second anniversary of Dr. Park’s death. SK bioscience contributes funding for two 100 million Korean won (approx. US$85,000) annual prizes to IVI for the awards.

“IVI, jointly with SK bioscience, is pleased to announce the selection of the winners of the second set of IVI-SKBS Park MahnHoon awards.  The award recipients are Profs. Andrew Pollard and Sarah Gilbert for their work on COVID-19 and other critical global health and emerging disease vaccines and Drs. Rino Rappuoli and Mariagrazia Pizza for their development of new, more scientific approaches to the development of all vaccines,” said Dr. Jerome Kim, Director General of IVI. “These two groups of vaccine champions have spearheaded the development of vaccines against COVID-19 and meningitis, respectively, which have saved numerous lives and advanced vaccine science and global public health.”

Prof. Andrew Pollard, Director of the Oxford Vaccine Group in the Department of Pediatrics at the University of Oxford, led the clinical development of the Oxford/AZ COVID-19 vaccine across 3 continents, one of the first and most widely administered vaccines in the fight against the pandemic. He has conducted extensive clinical, basic and epidemiological research crucial to the understanding of the burden of vaccine-preventable diseases and has led pioneering work on meningococcal, pneumococcal, typhoid and COVID-19 vaccines which underpins global policy on immunization against these diseases.

Prof. Sarah Gilbert, Professor of Vaccinology at the University of Oxford and a co-inventor of the Oxford/AZ vaccine, was the driving force behind the creation of this novel adenoviral vectored COVID vaccine. More than 3.1 billion doses of the vaccine have been released for supply to over 180 countries, including over 580 million doses that were made available to COVAX for low- and middle-income countries, or about 31 percent of all COVAX supplies. As a leader of vaccine advocacy she is also the author of the book ‘Vaxxers: The Inside Story of the Oxford AstraZeneca Vaccine and the Race Against the Virus.’ Her work also focuses on the rapid transfer of vaccines into GMP manufacturing and first in human trials as part of efforts to accelerate the development and introduction of new vaccines.

Dr. Rino Rappuoli and Dr. Mariagrazia Pizza jointly pioneered a new more scientific approach to vaccine development – “reverse vaccinology” that takes what we understand about the viral and bacterial pathogens and immune responses against them to design an optimal vaccine candidate. Using this approach they developed a new vaccine against the Type B meningococcus, a devastating infection of the nervous system that occurs most commonly in infants aged under 1 year, as well as children and adolescents. This vaccine is now licensed (Bexero) and has shown to be highly efficacious in preventing the disease.  Dr. Rappuoli is now the Scientific Director of Biotecnopolo di Siena Foundation in Italy and was formerly the Chief Scientist at GSK Vaccines,  His extensive contributions to vaccinology also include a molecule, CRM197, that today is the most widely used carrier for vaccines against H. influenzae, N. meningitidis and pneumococcus, and is used to vaccinate most children worldwide.

Dr. Mariagrazia Pizza is former Senior Scientific Director Bacterial Vaccines at GSK. In the 1980s, she took on a project aimed at designing genetically detoxified pertussis toxin. This research led to the identification of a genetically detoxified pertussis toxin as the antigen ideal for a new vaccine for being devoid of toxicity but highly immunogenic. In 1999, she became the project leader for the identification of new Meningococcus B antigens using the ‘reverse vaccinology’ approach. This allowed the development of the MenB vaccine, which has been licensed in more than 40 countries worldwide.

Dr. Christian Mandl, chair of the IVI -SK bioscience Park MahnHoon Award Selection Committee (and IVI’s Scientific Advisory Group), said, “I had the privilege of joining some 10 leading vaccine experts on the Selection Committee to evaluate the qualifications of world-renowned vaccinologists and global health leaders to single out the awardees. These awardees deserve global recognition for their exceptional contributions to vaccine research, the development and testing of novel vaccines, the discovery of breakthrough technologies, and the impact these vaccines have had on the health of people everywhere.”

Dr. Hun Kim, Global R&BD President of SK bioscience, said, “Vaccine development is a task that must be carried out with the single goal of promoting the health of humanity by overcoming the fear of uncertainties and long time required. By building upon the spirit of the late Vice Chairman Park MahnHoon who made significant contributions to the global health sector, SK bioscience will continue to take the lead in developing vaccines and ensuring equitable vaccine supply in collaboration with IVI.”