Press Release

Launch of Boulle-SEI International Awards for Outstanding Progress in the Field of Life and Health Sciences

26 November 2021

The Jean Boulle Group (“the Group”) and the Spanish Society of Immunology (Sociedad Española de Inmunologia) (“SEI”) are pleased to announce the foundation of the Boulle-SEI International Awards (“the Awards”) which include new scientific prizes that recognise outstanding progress in the global life and health sciences. 

The Awards in this inaugural year cover two categories: the Zendal Prize for Women and the Balmis Prize for Men to recognise globally significant research teams whose work meaningfully contributes to the treatment and prevention of infectious diseases. 

The winners in each category will be presented with their awards at the Alicante Winter Immunology Symposium In Health (“A-WISH”) in Alicante on 16th December 2021 at the Audito rio de la Diputación de Alicante. 

Commenting on the announcement Leighton Durham, representing the Jean Boulle Group, said: 

“The proud Spanish history of treating global health issues and the outstanding work of the immunologists faced with today’s global pandemic was the starting point for these new awards. We are delighted to ignite a flame to throw light on the discoveries which help to save millions of lives.” 

Commenting on the announcement Jordi Ochando, representing the Spanish Society of Immunology, said: 

“The need to develop rapid and effective responses to pandemics such as COVID-19 has become evident following the enormous challenges faced by the global health care system during the worldwide pandemic. We therefore decided to recognise the contributions of leading global researchers in immunology aimed at the prevention and treatment of viruses.” 2 

Award details 

The Award has been founded by the Jean Boulle Group and SEI (together the “Founders”) because of their shared vision to acknowledge and support the life changing work of today’s health care and life sciences community. 

By referencing the Royal Philanthropic Vaccine Expedition led by Dr Francisco Javier de Balmis from 1803 to 1806 the Founders recognise the millions of inhabitants of Spanish America who were vaccinated against smallpox thanks to pioneering Spanish science. Against the background of today’s global pandemic, science has again focussed on the worldwide scientific community’s effort to promote universal health. 

The objective of the Awards is to recognize and publicize scientific achievement in the following research areas: immunology, vaccinology, infectious diseases, epidemiology and public health. 

Research teams that have demonstrated exceptional attention to training and inspirational leadership will be paid special consideration. The Awards will focus on demonstrative progress from research and the application of accumulated data. In addition to scientific research the Awards also recognise training and leadership given to the team behind the body of work as opposed to an individual. 

Francisco Balmis could not have completed his expedition without Isabel Zendal, for the same reason we want to give the award to a team with strong female input. In principle, we will consider a team from the same lab, department or institution as long as there is evidence of collaboration. 

The winners of the Boulle–SEI Award in both categories will be presented with their Award as well as both receiving a $50,000 cash prize. The award will be funded by the Jean Boulle Group in partnership with The Spanish Society of Immunology. 

In terms of eligibility, it is our ambition for the Boulle-SEI Awards to be an annual event and we are currently working on the Rules and Submission Instructions in preparation for next year. This year however we do not have the necessary time frame for an open application process, so it will be up to the jury to select the winners for each category. 

The winners will be chosen by a jury formed of recognised experts appointed by the University of Alicante and the Board of Directors of the SEI. 3 

The jury will have a composition of men and women and the winners will be chosen based purely on merit. The jury members are Sir Marc Feldmann, Dr. Maria Neira, Laurance Zitvogel, Gabril Nunez, Jose Villadangos, Jacques Bancherau, Alain Fischer, Padmanee Sharma, Kathyrn Wood and James Allison. 

Historical background to the Awards 

The greatest Spanish contribution to humanity in the field of health care was promoted by the military surgeon from Alicante (Spain) Francisco Balmis, with his philanthropic expedition for the smallpox vaccine. This milestone marked the first worldwide intercontinental vaccination campaign that saved the lives of millions of people. 

It is calculated that the vaccination of the Canary Islands, Cuba, Puerto Rico, Venezuela, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, New Spain (Mexico, Central America and the southwest of the current United States), Chile, Argentina, the Philippines, China, South Africa and Guinea against smallpox saved millions of lives during the expedition which took place more than 100 years before the creation of the World Health Organization. 

Edward Jenner wrote about the expedition, “I cannot imagine that in the annals of history a nobler and wider example of philanthropy than this is provided”. Alexander von Humboldt wrote in 1825: “This trip will remain the most memorable in the annals of history and the name of José Balmis must be written in the sciences with silver letters”. 


For further information please contact: 

Jean Boulle Group 

Audrey Richardson 

+352 222 512 

Media – Michael Oke/Andy Mills 

Aura Financial 

+44 207 321 0000 4 

Sociedad Española de Inmunología 

Esther Sevilla 

+34 663 720 802 

Universidad de Alicante 

María Martín 

+34 610 488 800 

Notes to editors 

Jury Member Biographies for the Boulle-SEI Awards 2021 

James Allison: Professor and Chair of the Department of Immunology, the Olga Keith Wiess Distinguished University Chair for Cancer Research, and Director of the Parker Institute for Cancer Research. University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, Houston, USA. Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine (2018). 

Jacques Banchereau: Professor and Director of Immunological Sciences. The Jackson Laboratory for Genomic Medicine, Farmington, USA. 

Sir Marc Feldmann: Professor at the University of Oxford and a Senior Research Fellow at Somerville College, Oxford, England. Albert Lasker Clinical Medical Research Award in 2003. 

Alain Fischer: Director of the Pediatric Immunology Unit (Inserm), Hôpital Necker-Enfants malades, Professor at the Paris Descartes University, Paris, France. Université of Paris awarded the Louis Jeantet Prize for Medicine (2001), the INSERM “Grand Prix” (2008) and the Japan Prize (2015). 

Maria Neira: Director of Department of Environment, Climate Change and Health at the World Health Organization (WHO), Geneva, Switzerland. 

Gabriel Nunez: Endowed Professor of Pathology, Department of Pathology and Clinical Laboratories, University of Michigan, USA. 

Padmanee Sharma: Professor of Genitourinary Medical Oncology and Immunology, and Scientific Director for the Immunotherapy Platform, University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, Houston, USA. 5 

Jose Villadangos: Professor in the Departments of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, and Microbiology and Immunology at the University of Melbourne, Victoria, Australia. 

Kathryn Wood: Professor of Immunology in the Nuffield Department of Surgical Sciences. University of Oxford, Oxford, England. The Royal Society Wolfson Research Merit Award for research excellence. 

Laurance Zitvogel: Group Leader of Tumour immunology and immunotherapy of cancer. Institut Gustave Roussy, Université de Paris Saclay, and INSERM, Paris, France. 

Spanish Society of Immunology 

The Society for Immunology (Sociedad Española de Inmunología) is a non-profit scientific society established in Spain in 1975 by immunologists working at academic hospitals in Spain. The Spanish Society for Immunology is a national society that is recognized by the Spanish Ministry of Health as a medical research organization and has been approved as a registered as a Scientific Society of Health Professionals. 

The mission of the society is to promote immunology through educational activities, annual meetings, monographic symposia and providing career training courses. SEI also organizes annual workshops for standardization of diagnostic immunology tests for immunochemistry, allergy, autoimmunity and cellular immunology. In addition, SEI runs the External Quality Assurance for Diagnostic Immunology Laboratories program (GECLID) that monitors immunology interlaboratory quality data. Finally, SEI hosts the online journal “Inmunologia” for the dissemination of articles, reviews, meeting reports, journal clubs and other educational activities. The SEI is part of several immunological international federations such as IUIS, EFIS, EFI and FOCIS. 

SEI has served as advisory board to the Spanish Ministry of Health and regional health authorities on epidemics, vaccines and health policies among others and continues to serve the Spanish Ministry of Health on COVID-19 related issues. 6 

As part of the support to the Spanish National Health System, SEI has developed the free-app SEICOV, which helps distinguish common symptoms of common cold, flu and COVID-19, following the indications reported by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious diseases (NIAID), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the World Health Organization (WHO). 

About Jean Boulle Group 

The Jean Boulle Group’s interests span a wide range of areas, but it is principally active in natural resources, medical technology, therapeutics, and philanthropy. Since its foundation by Jean Raymond Boulle the Group has completed transactions with a combined value in excess of US$5 billion. 

Its investments span early-stage private funding for innovative technologies through to acquisitions, special situations and strategic investments in publicly traded companies on leading stock exchanges. 

The Group often co-invests alongside state investment and pension funds and uses its specific industry knowledge in a number of sectors to discover, evaluate and develop new enterprises which have the potential to demonstrate long-term benefit for a range of stakeholders. 

Boulle Therapeutics, part of the Jean Boulle Group, is a long-term investor in novel techniques for treating harmful diseases. Boulle Therapeutics identifies, invests in, and supports the development of early, seed stage innovations that have the potential to save lives and improve the quality of life for massive numbers of people across many generations. 

One such Boulle Therapeutics’ company is Trained Therapeutix Discovery, Inc. (TTxD). Traditionally, it has been assumed that immunological memory is exclusively located in our adaptive immune system. Pioneering work from scientific founders of Boulle Therapeutics’ TTxD, Mihai Netea and Leo Joosten, has revealed that the innate immune systems also have adaptive characteristics. This de facto innate immune memory is called ‘trained immunity’. 

The other scientific founders are: Jordi Ochando, Ph.D. Assistant Professor of Medicine, Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, New York; Willem Mulder, Ph.D. Professor of Precision Medicine, Eindhoven University of Technology; and Zahi Fayad, Ph.D. Lucy G. Moses Professor in Medical Imaging and Bioengineering. 7 

About University of Alicante 

The University of Alicante (in Valencian language: Universitat d’Alacant; also known by the acronym UA), formed by the Campus of San Vicente del Raspeig, University venues throughout the province, several scientific stations and a Science Park, is a public non-profit entity that was established in 1979 on the basis of the Center for University Studies (CEU), which was founded in 1968. Thus, Alicante recovered in this way its university studies centre that was suspended in 1834.The University inherits the legacy of the University of Orihuela that was established by Papal Bull in 1545 and remained open for two centuries (1610-1808). The University main campus is managed from the most advanced criteria of energy efficiency, recycling and social commitment, there is plenty of beautiful green areas and buildings (some of them won relevant architecture Awards) and it is located in San Vicente del Raspeig/Sant Vicent del Raspeig, bordering the city of Alicante to the north. La Rabassa airfield was located on these lands until the opening of El Altet Airport in 1967. It is a modern green campus of one square kilometer which hosts approximately 28,000 students and near 4,000 employees. 

UA main aims are to provide the best education for its students in their respective studies, to help them turn into valuable professionals able to constitute the backbone of social and economic progress, and to provide surrounding public administrations, associations and companies useful help to achieve their objectives. The UA offers courses in more than fifty degrees. It comprises over seventy departments and research groups in areas of Social Science and Law, Experimental science, Technology, Liberal Arts, Education and Health Sciences, and eighteen research institutes. Almost all classes are taught in Spanish language, although some are in English, in particular, in Computer Science, in Business degrees and in Experimental and Health Sciences; and a few are in Valencian language. The Department of Economics runs, in Europe, a well-known Graduate Program in Economics which is an American-style full-time program taught entirely in English. Spanish language courses are also offered for foreign students throughout the year and during the summer. The University also offers English Language versions to PhD level including religion. In addition, it offers a wide variety of cultural and sport activities that can be developed within the Campus, that hosts a modern and well fitted Arena, and also outside in the different University venues located in Alicante and its province. 

UA is part of several networks: European University Association (EUA), Compostela Group of Universities (Spanish: La Conferencia de Rectores de 8 

las Universidades Españolas; CRUE) and Catalan-speaking network Xarxa Vives d’Universitats. University networks are non-profit Associations to promote interuniversity cooperation. The University also hosts Biblioteca Virtual Miguel de Cervantes, which is the largest open-access repository of digitised Spanish-language historical texts and literature from the Ibero-American world. The UA challenges for the close future are: to consolidate what has been achieved since the University was created, to advance towards a 21st century university that prioritises digital transformation, the transition to a green economy, and equal opportunities and further education and research when designing policies, both generally and at university level.