Lorraine Cross: $1 million health and science award

SIOUX FALLS, S.D., Feb. 1, 2019 — In the biennial Lorraine Cross Award, Sanford Health has created one of the most lucrative recognitions for innovation in health care.

The $1 million prize honors excellence in life-changing treatments, medical innovations and research conducted by scientists around the world.

“We know that breakthroughs don’t come easily,” said Kelby Krabbenhoft, Sanford Health president and CEO. “But we also know that these big bang moments are what drives health care and healing forward, and we want to recognize the people who are making that happen. This award is our first step.”

The award is named for the Lorraine Cross, a symbol for those who act on their passions. In recent history, Sanford Health has used it to signify innovation in health care.

“Sanford Research is proud of its cutting-edge work and the recognition it has received on the global stage,” said David Pearce, Ph.D., executive vice president of Sanford Research. “This award will inspire important conversations and bring forward life-changing treatments and medical innovations to change health care as we know it.”

Related: Leader interviews and details

Algorithm and analysis

To best reflect the goal of the Sanford Lorraine Cross Award, an objective data-driven process was used for nominees. Known as an early signals analysis, this process stands in contrast to other major medical innovation awards. Generally, these award processes rely on subjective vetting of a small set of recognized scientific leaders.

Candidates for the Lorraine Cross Award are filtered through nominations from the public and a computer algorithm. This lets Sanford Health look at more research and find innovations that are on the cusp of helping people.

A diverse panel of scientific and medical experts further validates and refines the findings. They focus on each contender’s significance in advancing medical science, improving clinical practice, driving significant impacts on patient health, and addressing broader public health issues.

Lorraine Cross Award advisory board

Members of the 2018 scientific panel were:

“The members of this panel represent so many disciplines,” Pearce said. “It’s unusual to bring together such a diverse group. We wanted to make sure we had representation from various areas to bring fresh eyes to the research and help think outside of the box when it comes to finding a winner.”

Lorraine Cross Award: The faces of innovation

Impacting patient lives

Rather than simply finding a person to reward, the selection team focuses on research that has impacted patients.

“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 worldwide collaboration also creates patient opportunities, she said. Sanford Health has a growing reputation for world-class research and patient care.

“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.”

To determine the award winner, finalists make presentations to the Sanford Health International Board.

“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 member of the 2018 advisory board.

2018 results

For their work in creating a path for genetic treatments for blindness and other devastating diseases, Drs. Katherine High and Jean Bennett won the inaugural $1 million Lorraine Cross at a ceremony in Sioux Falls, South Dakota.

Other finalists were:

James M. Wilson M.D., Ph.D., — director of the Gene Therapy Program, the Rose H. Weiss Professor and Director of the Orphan Disease Center, and a professor of Medicine and Pediatrics in the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania.

Brian Kaspar, Ph.D., — scientific founder and chief scientific officer of AveXis, a gene therapy company that was acquired by Novartis in 2018.

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