Global Gene Corp, co-founded by IITians, wins $ 1 million Roddenberry Prize
Washington, August 20, 2020
Global Gene Corp, a genomics biotech pioneer co-founded by two alumni of the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), Delhi, was today named by The Roddenberry Foundation as one of the four winners of its $ 1 million biennial prize, which is designed to advance the vision of Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry.
The four organizations were chosen for working to better humanity amidst the challenges of the global coronavirus pandemic, a press release from the foundation said.
This year's prize, launched in the early weeks of the pandemic, quickly pivoted to engage organizations who have demonstrated their agility and innovation on the frontlines of COVID-19.
“Gene’s vision was for big, bold ideas to change the world,” said Roddenberry Foundation Chief Executive Lior Ipp. “The year’s Prize invested in organizations 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 organizations responding to humanity’s needs during the COVID-19 crisis and beyond.”
The response to the Prize was overwhelming and inspiring, with over 2,500 applications from non-profit and for-profit enterprises of all sizes from around the globe.
Global Gene Corp, based in Mumbai, India and Cambridge, United Kindom wins the 2020 Roddenberry Prize for its contributions in Science.
"Global Gene Corp is democratizing healthcare through genomics by mapping and organizing the world’s genomic diversity, overcoming the bias that 80% of all existing genomic data come from people of European ancestry. In response to Covid-19, the company has expanded its genomics technology platforms, originally developed to enable large scale studies on human health to create next generation therapeutics, to include a multilingual contact tracing platform with mobility passports and individual risk evaluation," the release said.
Sumit Jamuar, Chairman & CEO of Global Gene Corp said: "At Global Gene Corp, we are truly honored and humbled to receive the Roddenberry Foundation Prize for 2020. 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. 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 healthcare 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.”
Jamuar and another co-founder of the company, Kushagra Sharma, are alumni of IIT Delhi. The other co-founders are Saumya Jamuar, Jonathan Picker and Yaron Turpaz.
Criteria for the Roddenberry prize are innovation, potential for impact, vision, and track record across four key issue areas — Environment, Humanity, Science, and Education — but with 2020 applications due in April just as the pandemic was unfolding across the planet, the Prize application was adjusted to address its outsized influence on potential applicants.
“It was clear that the devastating impact of COVID-19 would be unprecedented and that at least for the immediate future, there was an opportunity to leverage the Prize to support robust responses to the pandemic,” said Heidi Roddenberry, board chair. “The organizations awarded the Prize are pivoting or amplifying their work in extraordinary ways.”
The 2020 Roddenberry Prize winner in Environment is Digital Green, based in Baltimore, Maryland, United States, who are on the frontlines of supporting farming communities across the world and ensuring they are able to lift themselves out of poverty and have the resources they need to combat the impact of COVID-19.
Digital Green supports smallholder farming communities in South Asia and Africa with technology and grassroots level partnerships that help them lift themselves out of poverty. The organization has worked with 2.3 million farmers across 17,000 villages in nine countries, primarily in India and Ethiopia. With food supply disrupted by the pandemic, Digital Green has supported farming communities by connecting farmers to buyers via a digital marketplace and developing text-message, video, and audio based advisory systems deliverable to farmers via their cell phones. They expect to reach 200,000 farmers with their digital advisories and enroll the same number in the digital marketplace supplier directory.
Rikin Gandhi, Co-Founder & Executive Director, Digital Green said: “We’ve all seen food shortages at grocery stores and long lines at food banks. Paradoxically, many farmers themselves have been the first to go hungry. That’s especially true for the 126 million smallholder farming families across India. We’re scaling a multilingual, voice-based chatbot over WhatsApp that enables these farmers to set up their own digital storefronts to sell their produce directly to consumers and reap their greatest harvests. We’re deeply grateful to partner with the Roddenberry Foundation to put farmers back at the center of the food and agriculture system that is more resilient for our collective future.”
The 2020 Roddenberry Prize winner in Humanity is Generation, based in Washington D. C. in the US, which is committed to ensuring people across the world have the skills they need to access the careers of today.
Generation has helped more than 38,000 people in 14 countries train for careers that had been previously inaccessible to them.
Thhe 2020 Roddenberry Prize winner in Education is Libraries Without Borders, based in Monreuil, France and with operations around the world. Libraries Without Borders works in 20 countries to advocate for libraries to become epicenters for the reduction of inequalities and the development of people and communities.Through innovative solutions they are ensuring books are available even for off-grid populations with offline Internet technology. The organization has adapted to raise awareness of COVID-19 in countries such as Bangladesh and Burundi, and internationally by hosting daily live videos with educational and creative activities for children. It has also trained volunteer tutors to teach migrant children using WhatsApp.
The US-based Roddenberry Foundation is committed to big, bold ideas that can change the world.
"We make catalytic, timely investments in original ideas and extraordinary people through three core programs which uncover and support great, often untested ideas, and the individuals and organizations whose vision and leadership have the potential to bring them to fruition," the release added.