Second Edition (2019-2020)


Awarded by the Barcelona City Council in collaboration with the Academia Europaea-Barcelona Knowledge Hub


Barcelona Hypatia European Science Prize ceremony and lecture, recognising virologist Ilaria Capua, MAE, were streamed live from Barcelona on June 1, 2021

Watch the video of the ceremony here:

Link to Barcelona City Council press release HERE

Link to the interview on El·lipse, the Barcelona Biomedical Research Park (PRBB) Newsletter, HERE

Link to the interview at the Living Terrace of the Natural Science Museum of Barcelona, HERE

The Barcelona Hypatia European Science Prize in its second edition recognises Prof. Ilaria Capua, virologist and current Director of the “One Health” Center of Excellence at the University of Florida, for her notable research career in the fields of veterinary medicine and microbiology, for her contributions to science policy and leadership in the promotion of open access to genetic information on emerging viruses, and for the social impact that she has made through her contributions to the multidisciplinary concept of “one health”. Prof. Capua has taken this concept one step further by identifying how big data technology can be harnessed for the benefit of “circular health” to co-advance human and planetary health.

Launched by the Barcelona City Council in collaboration with the Academia Europaea-Barcelona Knowledge Hub within the framework of the Barcelona Science Plan, the Hypatia Prize seeks to project the city as a European capital of research and innovation. Its main goal is to spotlight science, as well as to promote, support and enhance the value of excellent research conducted in Europe and of its impact on society. The first edition of the prize (2018), devoted to Science and Technology, was awarded to mathematician László Lovász, Professor at Eötvös Loránd University in Budapest, Hungary, for his outstanding career in the field of mathematics and for the contribution of his research to social progress. In 2021, Prof. Lovász was named Abel Prize Laureate by the Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters.

The Hypatia Prize features a monetary award of 30,000 euros and a commemorative plaque, which will be presented to Prof. Capua during a solemn ceremony held in the Saló de Cent (Barcelona City Council’s Main Hall) and presided by the Mayor of Barcelona, Ada Colau. The ceremony, set to take place on June 1, 2021, will feature a distinguished lecture by Prof. Capua. Given the rapidly changing circumstances surrounding the current COVID-19 pandemic, details of this event will be confirmed at a later date, in agreement with recommendations by the public health authorities.

The five members comprising the selection jury were: Prof. Eva Kondorosi, Jury President and Member of the Board of Trustees of Academia Europaea; Prof. Ricard Guerrero, Jury Secretary; and Prof. Paola Bonfante, Prof. Lluís Ferrer, and Prof. Cristina Pujades, Jury Members. The jury held a virtual meeting on September 8, 2020, to analyse the information provided by nominators, in line with the prize terms and conditions previously published. Also in attendance, having a voice but not a vote, was Kimberly Katte, Manager of the Barcelona Knowledge Hub of the Academia Europaea.

 From the nineteen candidates nominated in the area of the prize in its second edition (Life and Health Sciences), Prof. Capua was chosen by the members of the selection jury as winner. Their decision was motivated by Prof. Capua’s research career, conducted at the highest international level, by her leadership in the promotion of open access to genetic information on emerging viruses, and by the social impact that she has made through her contributions to the multidisciplinary concept of “one health,” encompassing human, animal and environmental health. Prof. Capua has taken this concept a step further by identifying how big data can be harnessed for the benefit of “circular health”.

Following her selection as prize winner, last fall Prof. Capua was named Member of Academia Europaea (AE) on the President’s List. She will be welcomed into the community of AE scholars at the Building Bridges 2021 conference, to be held in Barcelona on 20-21October.

Prize winner Ilaria Capua

Ilaria Capua is Professor and Director of the One Health Center of Excellence at the University of Florida (USA). She has devoted her career to studying viral infections of zoonotic origin that can be transmitted to humans, many of which have an impact on the critical issue of food safety.

At the height of the spread of the H5N1 avian influenza virus in 2006, Prof. Capua sparked a global debate on the interdisciplinary sharing of data among scientists by publishing the genetic sequence of an African variant of the virus in a public, open-access database. Her vision was shared by leading international organisations, such as the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations, the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) and the World Health Organization (WHO), and sparked a paradigm shift toward the real-time sharing of genetic information regarding potentially pandemic viruses. This is now considered critical in the fight against emerging health threats including influenza, ebola, zika and coronaviruses.

Prof. Capua is the author of over 220 articles in peer-reviewed scientific journals and has published several books on avian influenza and Newcastle disease, as well as eight books for the general public. Her work has been recognised with honours including the 2007 Scientific American 50 Award for leadership in science policy, the 2011 Penn Vet World Leadership in Animal Health Award, the 2012 Gordon Memorial Medal, and the 2014 ESCMID Excellence Award for Clinical Microbiology and Infectious Diseases. In 2019, she received an honorary PhD from her alma mater, the University of Perugia, Italy.

Between 2013 and 2016, Prof. Capua served as a Member of the Italian Parliament and as Vice-President of the Seventh Parliamentary Commission for Science, Culture, and Education.

Prof. Capua currently leads the Circular Health programme at the University of Florida (USA), working to co-advance the health of humans, animals, plants and the environment as one system by exploiting big data.

As an international keynote speaker, Prof. Capua is particularly active in communicating science to lay audiences and championing women in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics).

Circular Health: capitalizing on the One Health concept to meet post pandemic needs

(abstract from the Hypatia Prize ceremony lecture delivered by Ilaria Capua, DVM, PhD, Professor and Director, One Health Center of Excellence, University of Florida, Gainesville, USA)

Circular Health is a natural evolution of the One Health concept. It is founded on the recognition of the health of human beings as interconnected and interdependent with the health of animals, plants, and the environment. In the post-pandemic environment, Circular Health strives to co-advance health using a systemic approach.

The recent emergence and spread of SARS-CoV-2 has once again shown us that pandemics are linked to the spillover of an animal virus, but that the course they run and their ramifications are linked to other multiple drivers. We have watched the current pandemic act as a multi-system stress test for interconnected and interdependent domains. From managing an unknown disease to its impact on schools, we have seen its tragic effect on millions of individuals worldwide and upon community health and healthcare systems. It has also altered the management of personal and social interactions and mobility patterns, causing us to rethink our social behaviors. In essence, the COVID-19 pandemic has unveiled and highlighted existing linkages, which require novel research of an interdisciplinary nature. In order to achieve transformational research objectives, we must maximize the potential of the big data we are generating to discover novel interactions that can support real-time decision-making.

New post-pandemic approaches should aim at addressing issues which cannot be ignored any longer and that move us toward a sustainable future. These could include increasing vaccine accessibility and equity through the development of next-generation products that do not require a cold chain to be stored and distributed. Such a revolution would unleash the immense power of immunization, which is currently restricted to those who have access to refrigeration. Expanding vaccine coverage worldwide would also have a positive impact on antimicrobial resistance, which remains a major health threat. But there is more: the pandemic has affected men and women in a disproportionate manner, reminding us of our inherent diversity. It is not only the biological condition that differs between genders, but also behavioural, social and economic ramifications. Now is the time for the scientific community to deem morally unacceptable any studies that do not include data disaggregated by sex at birth and gender.

We are being forced to rethink — or reinvent — entire systems that have been disrupted by the current pandemic. During this process, we should be motivated to explore novel solutions that build on the ever-expanding knowledge about the interplay between human, animal, plant, and environmental health, dovetailing actions toward achieving the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.

It is up to us. We can choose to take action now, or to wait until the next pandemic.