An India and United Kingdom-based genomics biotech company is among four worldwide projects that won the first-ever USD 1-million 2020 Roddenberry Prize designed to advance the vision of 'Star Trek' creator Gene Roddenberry to better humanity.
Launched this year in the early weeks of the coronavirus pandemic, the prize pivoted to engage organisations who demonstrated innovation in dealing with COVID-19 and prize attracted over 2,500 applications from non-profit and for-profit enterprises of all sizes from around the globe.
Global Gene Corp was recognised in the Science category for democratising health care through genomics by mapping and organising the world's genomic diversity.
The company based out of Mumbai and Cambridge was lauded for helping the world overcome the bias that 80 per cent of all existing genomic data come from people of European ancestry.
"Growing up in India as a 'Star Trek' fan, Gene Roddenberry inspired us with his vision of a future where technology is a force for incredible positive impact on humanity," said Sumit Jamuar, Chairman and CEO of Global Gene Corp.
"This recognition of our work to create an equitable and fair world – where all of us, irrespective of where we live, can benefit by leapfrogging to the health care of the future enabled by genomics, digital health and creating the next generation of therapeutics – is a truly remarkable moment in our journey to create lasting transformation," he said.
Global Gene Corp said the prize money of USD 250,000 for each winning project would go towards furthering its research and development programmes.
"The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted unacceptable inequities in health care globally by infecting more than 20 million people so far, with greater trauma, not unexpectedly, in developing countries. The need for inclusion of different ethnicities and populations to understand the disparity in health care outcomes and research has never been clearer," Jamuar said.
The other winners of the 2020 Roddenberry Prize include two US-based projects: Digital Green in the Environment category for its work in empowering smallholder farmers by harnessing the collective power of technology across India, Ethiopia and other parts of South Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa.
Generation in the humanity category as a non-profit that trains, places, and supports people of all ages into life-changing careers, also operating in India as well as France, Italy, Spain and Mexico.
The fourth winner, under Education, is France-based Bibliotheeques Sans Frontieeres (BSF) or Libraries Without Borders, set up to democratise access to information and education.
"The year's prize invested in organisations able to move quickly and boldly in combating COVID-19, from spreading COVID-19 awareness to 'last-mile' populations to delivering online job training to contact-tracing and risk evaluation in genetic mapping, this year's prize winners are extraordinary organisations responding to humanity's needs during the COVID-19 crisis and beyond,” said Roddenberry Foundation Chief Executive Lior Ipp.