The countdown is on for the 2020 Sanford Lorraine Cross Award this December when Sanford honors a maverick pioneering change with a medical breakthrough, innovation or treatment to transform global health and life-changing impact — to the tune of $1 million.
The biennial recognition of the Sanford Lorraine Cross Award wouldn’t be without its Scientific Advisory Board, composed of 11 world-renowned medical and thought leaders in their fields to guide the process and vet nominees.
The process began in early March
“This award is about being the organization that first recognizes those achievements,” said David Pearce, Ph.D., Sanford Health Innovation and Research president. “We’ve heard the Nobel Prize, the Lasker Awards … these are career awards. This is about taking someone in the last few years who has reached the zenith of their career by research or discovery within their lifetime. Within their lifetime when they can still talk about that ‘bazinga moment’ at the bench and made this discovery in real time.”
The Sanford Lorraine Cross Scientific Advisory Board, spearheaded by Dr. Pearce, conducts a sophisticated search which begins with a little help from algorithmic technology.
“First phase, first of all, is where we use machine learning to identify all of the areas in biomedical research that have had significant advances and discoveries in the last five years,” Dr. Pearce said. “What area have we seen the most impact in terms of treating a disease, curing a disease, slowing down a disease in a large population of individuals? I can’t tell you exactly where we’ll land.”
Prior to the novel coronavirus reaching pandemic level in early March, the Scientific Advisory Bard met in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, for the first time. Sanford Health News caught up with the group during their visit.
Board members narrow 100 fields to 3
“I think this is starting a new era for U.S. prizes. It’s exciting,” Dr. Beverly Davidson said.
“The Lorraine Cross Award fills a unique niche. It’s really right in the middle of someone’s impactful career as they’re making the impact. Not something from 50 years ago and not recognizing something you think they’ll do 20 years from now. It’s really at the heart of an individual’s career.”
Dr. Marilyn Glassberg Csete explained how this award is different.
“The process doing it had some math, analysis, some weighted criteria and lended itself to what the parameters were that we wanted to look for. This wasn’t the Nobel Prize. This was the Lorraine Cross. This had a different intent,” she said.
Dr. David Sinclair said he loves this award because it focuses on benefiting humankind, “not just about being smart or having worked hard.”
“Is this discovery going to translate into medicines that change the world?” he said. “If science is all about changing the world, this is about rewarding people who have spent their whole careers trying to help people.”
The award’s first recipients in 2018, Jean Bennett, M.D., Ph.D., and Katherine High, M.D., were recognized for giving patients the gift of sight through a landmark gene therapy treatment.
“They’ve received a number of other awards since then. We were the first to acknowledge them. That’s what we want to be — the first to acknowledge the discovery and create a legacy. It takes a long time to create a legacy,” Dr. Pearce said.
With a new award year comes a new era of advancement in biomedical research and a large prize for medicine’s next big breakthrough.
“It’s very educational for me, very fun and I’m excited to learn the outcome just like everyone else,” Dr. Davidson said.
“This award, in 10 years’ time, will be ‘The Lorraine Cross Award.’ That’s the one that sets the tone in biomedical research and discoveries because people who win that go on to win other things,” Dr. Pearce said.
The Sanford Lorraine Cross Award selection process will continue with three areas of focus to identify three individual nominees. Three finalists will be announced September 29, 2020. The Sanford Lorraine Cross Award winner will be selected by the Sanford International Board and announced at a formal event in early December.
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