AstraZeneca CEO Sir Pascal Soriot awarded President's Medal at Palace of Westminster

Photography: Andrew Lunn

2 May 2024 | Simon Frost

AstraZeneca’s Chief Executive Officer Sir Pascal Soriot has been awarded the SCI President’s Medal – one of Society’s highest honours, awarded for the first time in more than a quarter of a century.

Established in 1946, the medal has only been awarded 11 times in its history. In 1992, it was given to the chemist and first British astronaut Helen Sharman and a previous recipient was Earnest Solvay, the founder of Solvay. It was last awarded in 1998 to Sir James Black, Nobel Laureate for Medicine and creator of beta-blockers and other life-saving drugs.

SCI President's Medal

Sir Pascal officially joined the exclusive list of President’s Medal recipients at a celebratory dinner hosted at the Palace of Westminster on Thursday 25 April. The award was given in recognition of his role in accelerating scientific innovation and for leading the company’s global Covid-19 vaccination programme – an unprecedented effort which helped to bring humanity through the most significant pandemic in living memory.

The event was attended by politicians and parliamentarians from across the House along with CEOs and senior representatives from across a range of scientific business.

The medal was awarded by Rt Hon George Freeman MP, former Minister of State for Science, Innovation and Technology and active proponent of the scientific industries.

Other esteemed guests included senior representatives from the French and Australian Embassies and Michel Demaré, Chair of AstraZeneca.

AstraZeneca collaborated with Oxford University to develop and manufacture one of the first Covid vaccines worldwide at the start of the pandemic. Between December 2020 and December 2021, three billion doses were made available, two-thirds of which were for low and middle-income countries worldwide, and offered at no profit to the company during the pandemic.

The action Soriot took in 2020 vastly accelerated the administration of the new vaccine reaching 180 countries around the world, saving an estimated 6.3 million lives in the first year of the pandemic alone.

George Freeman MP, Sir Pascal Soriot, Paul Drechsler CBE
George Freeman MP, Sir Pascal Soriot, and SCI President Paul Drechsler CBE.

In announcing the award, SCI President Paul Drechsler said:

‘What Pascal did was extraordinary. At such a crucial moment in history, the decision to forgo profit saved many, many lives and allowed economies in some of the most deprived parts to recover more quickly.

‘It was a hugely brave decision and one that was unprecedented in the industry. Such principled decision-making is a mark of a true leader. It needs to be recognised and celebrated.

Sir Pascal Soriot

Accepting the award, Sir Pascal said:

‘I am delighted and humbled to receive this award, which is really a reflection of the work of so many people across AstraZeneca who stepped up to deliver a vaccine for the world, while ensuring we did not miss a beat in advancing our pipeline and ensuring our essential medicines continued to reach patients in need.’

He highlighted three components which made AstraZeneca’s vaccine efforts possible – the company’s commitment to its values of putting patients first; the importance of scientific collaboration; and last, but not least, the people involved. ‘This award also recognises all those at AstraZeneca who gave their all through the pandemic and who continue to do so in the pursuit of ground-breaking innovations.’

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