Dr Anthony Fauci has won the $1 million Dan David Prize for “defending science” and promoting vaccines now being administered worldwide to fight the coronavirus pandemic.
Israel's Dan David Foundation on Monday named President Joe Biden’s chief medical adviser as the winner of one of three prizes.
It said he earned the recognition over a lifetime of leadership on HIV research and Aids relief, and his advocacy for the vaccines against Covid-19.
The private foundation did not mention former president Donald Trump, who undermined Dr Fauci’s scientific approach to the pandemic.
But it credited Dr Fauci with “courageously defending science in the face of uninformed opposition during the challenging Covid crisis”.
“As the Covid-19 pandemic unravelled, he leveraged his considerable communication skills to address people gripped by fear and anxiety and worked relentlessly to inform individuals in the United States and elsewhere about the public health measures essential for containing the pandemic’s spread,” the foundation’s awards committee said.
It praised Dr Fauci, 80, for “speaking truth to power in a highly charged political environment”.
He has served seven presidents and has been the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases since 1984.
He has acknowledged that it was sometimes difficult to work for Mr Trump, who repeatedly played down the severity of the pandemic.
The former president dismissed the need for wearing masks and often promoted unproven scientific remedies, including injecting disinfectant.
Mr Trump resented his adviser’s flattering press coverage and revelled in calls to “Fire Fauci” at some of his rallies.
But Dr Fauci outlasted Mr Trump, who lost the November election.
“It was very clear there were things that were said, be it regarding things like hydroxychloroquine and others, that really were uncomfortable because they were not based in scientific fact,” Dr Fauci said at a recent briefing.
He said that he took “no pleasure” in having to contradict the president.
But Mr Biden’s election, Dr Fauci said, was “liberating”.
The Dan David Prize, established in 2000, gives $1m awards in three categories each year for contributions addressing the past, present and future.
Dr Fauci won the prize for achievement in the “present" in the field of public health, the foundation said.
Professors Alison Bashford, Katharine Park and Keith Wailoo, working in history and health medicine, won the “Past” category.
The pioneers of an anti-cancer immunotherapy, Prof Zelig Eshhar, Dr Carl June and Dr Steven Rosenberg, won the “Future” category.
The foundation is at Tel Aviv University, where it provides grants to programmes in the humanities and social sciences.
The foundation sets aside 10 per cent of the prize money for scholarships.
Foundation director Ariel David, son of the prize founder, said this year’s laureates “have probed how humanity has dealt with sickness and pandemics throughout history".
"They have provided relief, guidance and leadership in dealing with current outbreaks … and they are at the forefront of discovering new treatments that give us hope for the future in the ongoing battle against cancer and other diseases”.
Previous recipients of the Dan David Prize include former US vice president Al Gore, former British prime minister Tony Blair, cellist Yo-Yo Ma, novelist Margaret Atwood, Wikipedia co-founder Jimmy Wales and filmmakers Joel and Ethan Coen.