Ben-Gurion University taps Moderna chief medical officer with namesake award

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Dr. Tal Zaks, chief medical officer of Moderna. Photo courtesy of Ben-Gurion University.

(JNS) Ben-Gurion University of the Negev is honoring individuals who have made significant contributions in the spirit of Israel’s first prime minister David Ben-Gurion, including Moderna chief medical officer Dr. Tal Zaks.

An M.D., Ph.D. graduate of BGU, Zaks is spearheading the vaccine research effort for Moderna, which just announced that its mRNA-1273 coronavirus vaccine is 94.5 percent effective.

It will be available in the United States and Israel pending further study and approvals. Zaks, originally from Ra’anana, Israel, moved to the United States in 1996 and first worked on cancer research at the National Institutes of Health. He joined the Boston-based Moderna in 2015.

“David Ben-Gurion’s vision continues to resonate strongly with these award winners,” says BGU president Professor Daniel Chamovitz. “We recognize their unique contributions—scientific breakthroughs alongside community action. Those were Ben-Gurion’s values, and they are our values.”

The awards ceremony is held annually on Ben-Gurion Day, an Israeli holiday that marks the death of one of Israel’s founding fathers and the namesake of the university. A virtual ceremony will be held on Nov, 22 at 11 a.m. Eastern Standard Time (6 p.m. Israel time).

“All eyes around the world are focused on the critical work that Ben-Gurion University alumnus Dr. Tal Zaks is overseeing at Moderna to eradicate this coronavirus pandemic,” says American Associates, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev chief executive officer Doug Seserman. “There is no better example of David Ben-Gurion’s vision to share Israel’s resources and brainpower with the world than the success being achieved by Dr. Zaks at Moderna. We congratulate him and are proud he is a recipient of the prestigious Ben-Gurion Award.”