Abdool Karims Awarded Laureates of the Fourth Hideyo Noguchi Africa Prize

August 5, 2022

The Government of Japan announced today it has awarded the Fourth Hideyo Noguchi Africa Prize for Medical Research to Salim S. Abdool Karim, CAPRISA Professor for Global Health in the Department of Epidemiology at Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health and director, Center for the AIDS Programme of Research in South Africa (CAPRISA) and to Quarraisha Abdool Karim, professor of epidemiology at Columbia Mailman School, associate scientific director of CAPRISA. Salim and Quarraisha Abdool Karim are world-renowned African scientists who have had a marked impact on HIV prevention and treatment and the COVID-19 response globally, and especially in Africa.

The Prize honors individuals with outstanding achievements in the fields of medical research and medical services to combat infectious and other diseases in Africa, thus contributing to the health and welfare of the African people and of all humankind, according to a Cabinet Decision of July 28, 2006. Chair Kiyoshi Kurokawa, professor emeritus of the National Graduate Institute for Policy Studies selected the final candidates and the prime minister made the final decision based on the recommendation by the HNAP Committee.

The award ceremony will be hosted by the Japanese prime minister at the Eighth Tokyo International Conference on African Development to be held in Tunisia on August 27th and 28th, 2022. The Hideyo Noguchi Africa Prize is composed of a citation, medal for each laureate, and an honorarium of approximately $1 million. 

“We are deeply honored to be joint recipients of the prestigious Noguchi Medical Research Award as it affirms that African scientists are leading and making important contributions in the global fight against AIDS, TB and COVID-19,” said Salim and Quarraisha Abdool Karim in a joint statement. “It recognizes our multi-disciplinary research team of over 300, including doctors, nurses, pharmacists, statisticians, and laboratory scientists; thousands of volunteers; collaborators and sponsors across the world. But, the task is not yet complete - this award inspires us to do even more to prevent and treat infectious diseases that threaten Africa’s prosperity.”

The Abdool Karims have worked side-by-side as spouse-scientists tackling devastating diseases while overcoming scientific and political obstacles. At considerable professional risk, they confronted AIDS denial, provided life-sparing antiviral treatments in defiance of government policy and developed HIV prevention approaches that empower women to protect themselves. They established collaborative HIV research centers, working with international partners on vaccines, immunopathogenesis research, microbicides, and antiviral treatments.

In addition to their work in HIV/AIDS, they have continued their scientifically rigorous work in the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic, undertaking rapid surveillance, promoting evidence-based prevention and combatting misinformation on Covid-19 vaccines. In tracking the epidemiology of SARS-CoV-2, the Abdool Karims provided accurate estimations of likely future surges of the coronavirus and assisting Africa to be better prepared for pandemic pressure on its healthcare systems, economies, and social systems. They played a key role in the national response against COVID-19 in the Republic of South Africa, with Salim serving as chair and Quarraisha as a member of the government’s Ministerial Advisory Committee on COVID-19. He is also a Commissioner on the Lancet Commission on Covid-19 and the African Union’s Commission on Covid-19. She is a member of the Executive Group of the World Health Organization’s COVID-19 treatment and vaccine solidarity trials. 

Salim and Quarraisha Abdool Karim undertook one of the first community-based studies of HIV in Africa in 1990, demonstrating the disproportionate burden of HIV in young women. Their most important contribution was their 2010 finding, through rigorous clinical trials at CAPRISA, of the effectiveness of a vaginal gel containing an antiviral agent in lowering the risk of HIV infection among young African women. This finding was heralded by UNAIDS and WHO as being amongst the most significant scientific breakthroughs in the fight against AIDS and ranked among “The Top 10 Scientific Breakthroughs of 2010” by the journal Science. The couple led clinical trials at CAPRISA that showed that the early deployment of antiretroviral therapy dramatically reduced deaths in patients with both HIV and tuberculosis. These findings were adopted in the WHO treatment guidelines and implemented in most countries. 

The Abdool Karims also serve as Pro Vice-Chancellors at the University of KwaZulu-Natal in South Africa and have led the Fogarty International Center’s Columbia University HIV training and research program for more than 20 years, providing training for over 600 African researchers. They are members of the U.S. National Academy of Medicine, the World Academy of Science, African Academy of Sciences, Academy of Science in South Africa, and the Royal Society of South Africa. In addition, Salim Abdool Karim is a fellow of The Royal Society of the U.K. and is the first African scientist to be appointed to the editorial board of the New England Journal of Medicine. They have served as science advisors of the WHO; UNAIDS; PEPFAR; the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria; and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.