Sanford Lorraine Cross Award finalists to be named Nov. 1

The winner of the $1 million award for innovative research will be announced Dec. 4.

By: Jacqueline Palfy . Tim Gerszewski .

Sanford Lorraine Cross Award
Sanford Lorraine Cross Award
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SIOUX FALLS, S.D. — The scientific advisory board tasked with identifying the areas of focus for the inaugural $1 million Sanford Lorraine Cross Award has finished its work ahead of the Dec. 4 presentation ceremony. The four finalists and their work will be announced on Thursday.

Sanford Health created the prize, which it will award every other year, to be one of the top five most lucrative honors celebrating transformative breakthroughs in medical care and the scientists who dedicate their lives to the work of health and healing.

“For me, as a researcher, rather than setting out to award a person, the selection team focused on content and research areas, areas that have made a huge impact on people’s lives. From there, once they narrowed it down to a topic area, they identified the leaders in that field who have crossed the finish line,” said Jill Weimer, Ph.D., senior director of therapeutic development and associate scientist of pediatrics and rare diseases at Sanford Research. “It’s going to put us on the map in a different area.”

The collaboration with scientists from around the world will also open up opportunities for patients because Sanford Health has a growing reputation for world-class research and patient care, she said.

“It gives patients access to cutting-edge medicine and clinical trials they wouldn’t otherwise have access to,” Weimer said. “We’re doing great science and doing great health care out here on the plains.”

Algorithm and analysis

To best capture the goal of the Sanford Lorraine Cross Award in targeting emerging transformative medical innovations and the pioneers advancing them, an objective data-driven process was used.

This methodology, known as an early signals analysis, stands in contrast to other major medical innovation awards that generally rely on subjective vetting of a small set of highly accomplished and recognized scientific leaders.

Candidates for the award were filtered through nominations from the public and a computer algorithm that sifts through medical publications in search of great discoveries. The early signals analysis, which uses machine learning algorithms, enabled Sanford Health to look at a large amount of research and identify those innovations that are on the cusp of helping people.

Advisory board

Once identified by the early signals analysis, a diverse panel of scientific and medical experts further validated and refined these medical innovation areas. They focused on each contender’s significance in advancing the state of medical science, improving clinical practice, driving significant impacts on patient health and addressing broader public health issues.

The focus then shifted to identifying finalists who embody the spirit of the Sanford Lorraine Cross Award.

“My hope is that it really will draw attention to these advances and help accelerate research to the point of bringing cures for disease,” said Mark Atkinson, Ph.D., a professor at the University of Florida, who brings expertise in immunology to the scientific advisory board.

The full advisory board:

  • Atkinson, expert in type 1 diabetes and immunology.
  • Michelle Baack, M.D., Sanford Health, expert in neonatology and perinatal medicine.
  • Kym Boycott, M.D., Ph.D., Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario, expert in rare inherited neurological pediatric diseases.
  • John Dunlap, Ph.D., Amgen, expert in degenerative neurological diseases such as Alzheimer’s.
  • Deborah Fowell, Ph.D., University of Rochester Medical Center, expert in immunology.
  • Alison Freifeld, M.D., University of Nebraska Medical Center, expert in infectious diseases.
  • Marilyn Glassberg Csete, M.D., University of Miami, expert in rare lung diseases.
  • David Pearce, Ph.D., Sanford Research, expert in rare diseases including Juvenile Batten disease.
  • William Pearce, Ph.D., Loma Linda University School of Medicine, expert in perinatal biology.
  • Susan Rheingold, M.D., Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, expert in acute lymphocytic leukemia, experimental therapeutics and clinical trials.
  • David Sinclair, Ph.D., Harvard Medical School, expert in aging and age-related diseases.
  • Clive Svendsen, Ph.D., Cedars-Sinai, expert in regenerative medicine and stem cell therapies.
  • Joshua Wynne, M.D., M.B.A., M.P.H., expert in development of research and academic enterprises.

Award’s meaning

The award is named after the Lorraine Cross, a symbol recognized around the world for those who take action for their passions. In recent history, Sanford Health has used it to symbolize innovation in health care.

“(The Sanford Lorraine Cross Award) is meant for someone who has taken an idea but seen it through to the finish line,” said Baack, a Sanford Health physician and scientist with a background in neonatal and perinatal medicine. “How will it saves lives or improve lives?”

The final four nominees will be honored and the award recipient will be announced live at an event on Dec. 4 in Sioux Falls, South Dakota.

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