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Anthony Fauci to Receive 2021 AAAS Abelson Prize

Anthony Fauci has advised seven presidents on public health, most recently serving as chief medical advisor to President Joe Biden. | Neil Orman/AAAS

Anthony Fauci – director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, an expert on HIV and immunoregulation, and the de facto public face of a science-based recovery from COVID-19 – has been named the winner of the 2021 Philip Hauge Abelson Prize, awarded annually by the American Association for the Advancement of Science to a scientist or public servant who has contributed significantly to the advancement of science in the United States.

Fauci is “an outstanding scientist with more than a thousand publications” and “an exceptional public servant, having been at the forefront of the world’s efforts to combat diverse infectious diseases for over 40 years,” wrote Alan Leshner, former chief executive officer of AAAS, in nominating Fauci for the prize. The prize committee cited Fauci’s “extraordinary contributions to science and medicine” and his service that has shaped research and public policy.

Fauci has made regular appearances at press conferences throughout the pandemic, first as a member of the Trump administration’s White House Coronavirus Task Force and now as part of the Biden administration’s COVID-19 response team. Fauci’s steadfast focus on scientific evidence has drawn notice from many viewers. “Americans have come to rely on Fauci’s authoritative presence,” wrote New Yorker science writer Michael Specter in April 2020.

Said Leshner, “He is a master at working with the public and with advocacy and patient groups, always willing to sit down and not only explain the science but help work through disagreements surrounding how to deal with public health issues.”

Anthony Fauci
Anthony Fauci gives a thumbs-up after receiving the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine in December 2020. | NIH

Fauci, who now serves as chief medical advisor to President Joe Biden, has advised seven presidents on public health crises. Since 1984, he has served as the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), where he oversees a portfolio of research to prevent, diagnose and respond to infectious diseases, among them respiratory infections like COVID-19, emerging infections such as Zika and Ebola, and HIV/AIDS. The latter is an area of specialty for Fauci, who has made significant research contributions to understanding how HIV destroys the body’s immune defenses. The chief of NIAID’s Laboratory of Immunoregulation since 1980 and a pioneer in the field of human immunoregulation, Fauci continues to devote much of his research to HIV and immunology.

He also has led the development of treatments that have enabled people living with HIV to survive and thrive. He was a principal architect of the global AIDS relief program, the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), for which he received the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2008.

“He often has said he admitted the first AIDS patient to the NIH clinical center and plans to admit the last patient,” wrote Leshner.

Fauci also has been recognized for developing therapies for several formerly fatal inflammatory and immune-mediated diseases.

He is the author, co-author or editor of more than 1,300 scientific publications. A 2020 analysis of Google Scholar citations found him to be the 32nd most highly cited researcher of all time. According to the Web of Science, Dr. Fauci ranked 9th out of 2.5 million authors in the field of immunology by total citation count between 1980 and January 2021.

Since 1985, the Philip Hauge Abelson Prize has recognized individuals who have contributed significantly to the advancement of science in the United States. The award was named in honor of Abelson, who, during a 60-year career in the sciences, served as editor of Science and was a longtime adviser to AAAS.

Fauci will be honored at an awards ceremony at the virtual AAAS Annual Meeting on Feb. 10 at 4 p.m. EST. Fauci also will deliver a plenary lecture, “COVID-19 in 2021: Lessons Learned and Remaining Challenges,” during the Annual Meeting. The plenary, to be held Feb. 8 at 4 p.m., is free and open to all, but attendance at the awards ceremony requires registration.

If you know someone that should be recognized for the Abelson Prize, please consider nominating them in our next upcoming cycle – which opens April 15, 2021. More information on eligibility requirements and the awards ahead of April 15 can be found here.