VinFuture Foundation in Vietnam Honors the Abdool Karims

January 24, 2022

World-renowned South African scientists and infectious disease epidemiologists Salim and Quarraisha Abdool Karim at Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health and CAPRISA (Centre for the AIDS Programme of Research in South Africa) were honored in Vietnam as one of the inaugural recipients of a VinFuture Special Prize for their groundbreaking research on HIV prevention in South Africa. The VinFuture Foundation, a not-for-profit foundation in Vietnam, was established to honor transformational technological innovations.

The Abdool Karims were awarded the VinFuture Special Prize for Innovators from Developing Countries at a ceremony held on January 20 at the Hanoi Opera House in Hanoi. Guests included Pham Minh Chinh, Prime Minister of Vietnam, as well as several leaders of Vietnam’s government ministries, ambassadors, Nobel laureates, and the Founders of the VinFuture prize. The event features a performance by John Legend.

Bongiwe Ntuli, Chair of the CAPRISA Board, said the Abdool Karims have “tirelessly championed the importance of science in defining the HIV and Covid-19 response ... South Africa is blessed to have such world-class scientists whose research is making the world a better place.”

Richard Friend, VinFuture Prize Council Chair, said: “The VinFuture Prize recognizes truly outstanding scientific work that has made and will make, a positive impact on the lives of millions, or even billions, of people around the world. The winners have brought new solutions for some of the most significant challenges that humanity is facing, such as infectious diseases and meeting the urgent need for zero-carbon energy. The VinFuture Prize celebrates the power of science and technology to solve global problems.”

The Abdool Karims said: “This specific 2022 prize for scientists in developing countries is a beacon of recognition for the many scientists in the developing world who toil away each day in their laboratories, clinics, and libraries—that scientific excellence is achievable in the midst of adversity. While we serve as its recipients, this prize is recognition for the dedication and commitment to excellence by a team of over 200 researchers in South Africa, with collaborators from 5 continents across the globe, and thousands of volunteers who have participated in our studies over the last 33 years.”

The ceremony honored the winners of the inaugural VinFuture Prizes, including the $3 million VinFuture Grand Prize and three $500,000 Special Prizes for female innovators, innovators from the developing countries, and innovators with outstanding achievements in emerging fields. The VinFuture Grand Prize was awarded to Katalin Kariko, Drew Weissme, and Pieter Cullis—the scientists behind mRNA technology for COVID-19 vaccines. 

Almost 600 nominations across 60 countries were received for the Prize. Of these nominations, nearly 100 came from the world’s most-cited scientists, many of whom are themselves laureates of distinguished awards, such as the Nobel Prize, Japan Prize, and Tang Prize.

Salim Abdool Karim, MBChB, PhD, DSc, is a South African clinical infectious diseases epidemiologist widely recognized for scientific contributions and leadership in AIDS and COVID-19. He is director of CAPRISA Durban, and CAPRISA Professor of Global Health at Columbia Mailman School. Abdool Karim is Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Research) at the University of KwaZulu-Natal and previously served as President of the South African Medical Research Council. He is a member of the WHO Science Council and Vice-President of the International Science Council. He is a member of the African Task Force for Coronavirus and a Commissioner on The Lancet Commission on COVID-19. He was the Chair of the South African Ministerial Advisory Committee on COVID-19.
Quarraisha Abdool Karim, PhD, is an infectious diseases epidemiologist, co-founder and associate scientific director of CAPRISA, professor of epidemiology at Columbia Mailman Schoo, and Pro-Vice Chancellor at the University of KwaZulu-Natal. She is the UNAIDS Special Ambassador for Adolescents and HIV and a member of the Steering Groups for the WHO Covid-19 Solidarity Therapeutics Trials and Vaccines Trials. She co-chairs the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal 10 Member Technology Facilitation Mechanism and is a member of the PEPFAR Scientific Advisory Board. She is a member of the U.S. National Academy of Medicine. Her research over the past 33 years has focused on understanding HIV transmission and preventing HIV infection in adolescent girls and young women.