[CNN] Science for Humanity

* The original article is available on CNN here.

VinFuture, a new global science award, aims to inspire innovators to create meaningful change for millions of people around the world.

Breaking Barriers

Nina Tandon, co-founder and CEO of EpiBone, is a preeminent biomedical engineer shaping the future of science and its relationship to medical care.
A biotechnology pioneer, Tandon has done postdoctoral research on stem cells and tissue engineering at Columbia University and worked on stimulating cell growth using electrical currents, even turning cells extracted from the hearts of rats into beating tissue.
EpiBone engineers stem cells to create personalized bone grafts for the human body, a breakthrough achievement in medical care and injury recovery.
“I was encouraged to explore how biology affects our day-to-day experience of life,” Tandon said in a 2017 interview. “My sisters are color-blind, and my brother is night-blind – both of which are genetic disorders. My work with EpiBone is inspired by the thousands of patients needing affordable personalized bone graft solutions.”
Tandon is currently a senior fellow at the Lab for Stem Cells and Tissue Engineering at Columbia University, and she was a 2011 TED Fellow and a 2012 senior TED fellow. She studied at the University of Rome Tor Vergata from 2003 to 2004 under a Fulbright scholarship, underlining the key role that funding plays in innovation.

For Science, For Society

Honoring such transformational technological innovations is the mission of the newly established VinFuture Prize, an initiative that provides opportunities for marginalized communities to break down barriers through science. This global science award brings forward a vision of creating meaningful change in the everyday lives of millions of people by honoring transformational technological innovations.
With a USD 100 million-equivalent initial endowment from Pham Nhat Vuong – founder and chairman of Vingroup, Vietnam’s largest private conglomerate – and his wife, Pham Thu Huong, VinFuture Foundation aims to work toward “a future where breakthrough scientific research and technological innovations empower people, positively enhance their lives, and create a more equitable and sustainable world for the coming generations.”

Creating positive change and having a direct impact on people’s lives has always been my purpose, in business and life.

Pham Nhat Vuong, founder and chairman of Vingroup

“The events of 2020 have shown that now more than ever, we need to bring together extraordinary individuals with a good heart and great mind, who can strive towards realizing the power of science and technology in overcoming our toughest global challenges and improving people’s lives.”
VinFuture Foundation’s focus – “creating a better life for people” – echoes the mission of Vingroup, which has a diverse business portfolio ranging from real estate to retail, healthcare, education, technology, and automotive. Its auto manufacturing arm, VinFast, is set to debut sales of its advanced electric cars in the United States, Canada, and Europe in 2022.

Best in Class

The award will honor breakthrough scientific research and technological innovations in areas aligned with the 17 UN Sustainable Development Goals, which include no poverty, zero hunger, good health and well-being, quality education, clean water, affordable and clean energy, and reduced inequalities.
A grand prize of USD 3 million will be awarded annually for breakthrough research and technological innovations that positively improve the quality of human life and create a more equitable, sustainable world for future generations. For diversified and equal opportunities towards the future, three additional special prizes of USD 500,000 each will also be awarded annually to innovators with outstanding achievements in emerging fields, innovators from developing countries, and female innovators. This addition places focus on promoting diversity, equity, and new fields of study.
Since the announcement of the prize in December 2020, the Foundation has had over 700 official nominators who are distinguished scientists and academics from 36 countries across six continents. Dr. Le Mai Lan, vice chairwoman of Vingroup JSC and an authorized representative of the VinFuture Foundation, says, “This is an impressive figure and builds on our belief in serving humanity at the ‘right time through the right need.”

For the Greater Good

The award is VinGroup’s strong commitment to prioritizing science for the betterment of humankind and highlights its support of the global scientific community, including science institutes, universities, and technology incubators.
Thuc-Quyen Nguyen, a Chemistry & Biochemistry professor at the University of California, Santa Barbara, and Co-chair of the VinFuture Prize Pre-Screening Committee, supports the Foundation’s vision of science and technology on a large scale.

There are many great technologies and breakthroughs, but they have not been brought to disadvantaged people. For example, there are still more than 800 million people who don’t have access to electricity globally.

Thuc-Quyen Nguyen, Chemistry & Biochemistry professor at the University of California, Santa Barbara, and Co-chair of the VinFuture Prize Pre-Screening Committee

“I think that VinFuture Prize will, over time, have tremendous scale and status,” Professor Jennifer Tour Chayes, Associate Provost for the Division of Computing, Data Science, and Society at the University of California, Berkeley, and member of the VinFuture Prize Council added. “I very much hope that it will take its place by other major prizes such as the Fields Medal in mathematics or the Turing Award in computer science.”
“We understand that we’re in it together. One society cannot detach itself from the rest of the world,” says Professor Richard Friend, chairperson of the Prize Council and a world-renowned physicist at the University of Cambridge. “So, I think to work on a prize, or a series of prizes, that helps push across that sense of opportunity for change for good will be a positive step to take the whole world in a good direction.”