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Bloomberg School awards highest honor to Poonawalla and Casals


Dear Colleagues,

 I am pleased to announce two Dean’s Medal recipients—Cyrus S. Poonawalla, PhD, for his lifelong work in developing and delivering affordable vaccines, and Jaume Casals, PhD, for his enduring commitment to improving health and social policy by encouraging public and private sector collaboration.

Established by Dean emeritus D.A. Henderson (1928-2016), the Bloomberg School’s Dean’s Medal is reserved for outstanding public health researchers and practitioners who demonstrate exceptional leadership in safeguarding and improving the public’s health. Recent award winners include social justice advocate Cheryl Dorsey, MD, MPP; Pulitzer prize-winning journalist Laurie Garrett; and former Baltimore Health Commissioner Lena S. Wen, MD. We plan to present these awards during Convocation in 2021.

Cyrus Poonawalla founded the biotech company, Serum Institute of India (SII), in 1966 and has led it to a leadership position in the field of vaccine development, particularly pediatric vaccines. Using an innovative approach focused on scale combined with a dedication to low-cost access, SII has been able to deliver vaccines on a vast scale. Protecting more than two thirds of the global infant population has resulted in an estimated saving of 30 million lives. Poonawalla has always been committed to collaboration, and the company partnered early on with UNICEF and the Pan-American Health Organization (PAHO). It is estimated that the SII measles vaccine supplied to UNICEF and PAHO between 1990 and 2016 averted 22 million deaths.

Today, SII is the world’s largest producer of vaccines by number of doses, producing more than 1.5 billion doses a year of life-saving vaccines used in over 170 countries to combat infections from many infectious diseases, including polio, rotavirus, rabies, measles, mumps, rubella, pertussis, tetanus, tuberculosis, influenza, pneumococcus, H. influenzae type b, and meningococcus. In response to the current COVID 19 pandemic, under Poonawalla’s leadership, SII is partnering with Oxford University and Astra Zeneca, as well as Novavax and many other partners, to manufacture and distribute millions of doses of a novel coronavirus vaccine, if it is shown to be efficacious.

Jaume Casals may be familiar to some of you who have taught our students in Barcelona. He has served as Rector of Pompeu Fabra University (UPF) in Barcelona, Spain, since 2013. He led the establishment of the Johns Hopkins-UPF Public Policy Center, which is jointly sponsored by UPF and the Bloomberg School. The strong partnership has provided an international reference point for many of our own faculty and students, enabling research and practice at the graduate level, with a primary focus on public and social policy areas.

The Center is committed to supporting public sector decisionmakers in developing workable solutions for complex socio-economic and public health challenges such as climate change and the COVID-19 pandemic. Under Rector Casals’ leadership, the Center has become an international point of reference in health and social policy, consulting with and assisting international agencies, governments and private and public institutions in their work.

A philosopher by training, Casals’ research focuses on the Greek genesis of modern and contemporary thought, philosophy, and literature, and he has authored numerous articles and books, including translating and editing works by Montaigne, Montesquieu, Berkeley and Bergson. Casals is a tireless advocate for the importance of academic work being accessible to the general public and for demonstrating its relevance to contemporary problems.

With a vision of developing new areas of knowledge that transcend disciplinary boundaries, Casals has consistently urged the academic enterprise to respond to the complexity of today’s threats to both human and planetary health and wellbeing by teaching with a focus on interdisciplinary and cutting-edge research. Casals sees the scholarly community and the Johns Hopkins-UPF Public Policy Center more specifically as an ideal space for public and private institutions to collaborate in their work of safeguarding the health of populations.

Please join me in congratulating Dr. Poonawalla and Dr. Casals—their outstanding work in both the public and private sectors as well as those partnerships truly exemplifies the incredible power of public health.


Ellen MacKenzie Signature

Ellen J. MacKenzie, PhD ’79, ScM ’75

Bloomberg Distinguished Professor
Bloomberg School of Public Health
The Johns Hopkins University