SOCIETY

Theophano Foundation award brings outstanding figures to Thessaloniki

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The Theophano Foundation will award its annual prize to Drs Ugur Sahin and Ozlem Tureci, the BioNTech scientists who developed the first coronavirus vaccine, in an award ceremony at the Thessaloniki Rotunda on October 13.

The 2021 Empress Theophano Prize focuses on the critical role of science in society and on its contribution to the common good as the foundation has chosen to showcase the decisive and vital intervention of science when critical conditions arise and its important role in improving human lives.

Hope for humankind

“Setting an example and motivating young people everywhere, the two scientists have demonstrated solid and persistent efforts to resolve an unprecedented health crisis, dedication to the common good, and high quality of research and expertise, leading to a discovery that has given hope not only to Europe, but to humankind,” stated the foundation’s release praising the work of the 2021 award recipients.

Greek President Katerina Sakellaropoulou will attend the award ceremony and will address the gathering of distinguished guests in the Rotunda as the ceremony will bring to Thessaloniki for the first time almost every member of the foundation from across Europe, whether they serve on the advisory or the governing council. Among them are Mary McAleese, former president of Ireland, Tarja Halonen, former president of Finland, Rita Sussmuth, former president of the Bundestag of Germany, Prince Karel of Schwarzenberg, former minister of foreign affairs of the Czech Republic, and Sir Ivan Rogers, former UK ambassador to the EU. Kathimerini’s executive editor Alexis Papachelas will present the award ceremony.

Following the ceremony, and to fully draw on the presence of these leading personalities from across Europe, the two councils of the Theophano Foundation (governing and advisory, chaired by Stavros Andreadis and Herman Van Rompuy respectively) have decided to establish a new institution known as the Theophano Round Table, a discussion panel on key topics of concern for humanity in the decades to come which will be inspired by and related to the work of that year’s award recipient.

This year’s event will take place on October 14, under the title “Securing Future Wellbeing Through Science” and focusing on themes related to science for the common good, science and innovation in Europe, science and competitiveness, science and education, and science and healthy living. The input of the two award recipients in this discussion promises to be fascinating as they will be conversing with selected members of the Advisory Committee who will develop the subject from various viewpoints.

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Drs Ozlem Tureci (l) and Ugur Sahin (r), the couple who founded BioNTech.

Bridging diversities

The Empress Theophano Prize was first awarded in 2020 to honor individuals or organizations who make outstanding contributions in bridging the historic diversities of Europe, with the goal of deepening and widening the narrative of European cooperation, whether in the construct of the European Union or otherwise. It is an award that highlights contributions to mutual understanding, cooperation and the strengthening of the contemporary European Idea, as well as contributions to the social good, welfare and the improvement of lives.

The inaugural recipient of the award in 2020 was the Erasmus student exchange program for its role in shaping future European citizens, with the mobility and experiences provided to its participants cementing a common European identity. The award was presented to the president of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen.

Historic European figure

The foundation takes its name from Empress Theophano, a historic European figure who helped bridge a divided Europe in the 10th century. A Byzantine princess, she became empress of the Holy Roman Empire by marriage and played a crucial role in improving relations between East and West. She positively contributed to a Western European cultural renaissance, introducing the central role held by Byzantine women to the West and facilitating the osmosis of Byzantine advancements in fields including education, commerce, the arts, and health sciences, to the West.

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Stavros Andreadis, chair of the foundation’s governing body. (l) Former head of the European Council Herman Van Rompuy at last year’s event. (r)