Sanford announces new $1 million award for top medical research

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FARGO — Sanford Health is launching a $1 million prize to spur medical research to help encourage transformative scientific breakthroughs.

The prize, which will be awarded next year for the first time, will not recognize career achievements, but will reward work that has delivered new cures or significant, cutting-edge treatments.

The Sanford Lorraine Cross Award will award "excellence in life-changing treatments, medical innovations and research conducted by scientists around the world," according to a statement from Sanford.

The prize, which will be awarded every other year, will rank among the top five most generous prizes for medical research, including the Nobel Prize.

The award is named after the Lorraine Cross, a cross dating back to 12th century France with a pair of horizontal bars that Sanford has embraced as its symbol.

Kelby Krabbenhoft, Sanford's president and CEO, said the Lorraine Cross Award is meant as a way of making a significant contribution, which follows a decade of growth and "establishing ourselves."

"Now, it's time for us to give to the next generation, and we're specifically looking for those experts who are at the finish line of innovation," Krabbenhoft said in a statement. "We want to reward those scientists or doctors who take an idea and see it through."

David Pearce, executive vice president of Sanford Research, said the award is intended to prompt important innovations.

"The idea is it will inspire individuals," he said. "I think $1 million is an attractive sum of money."

Sanford has named a 12-member scientific advisory panel to evaluate nominations. All are medical doctors or scientists who are recognized experts in various areas of medical research, Pearce said.

"There's a lot of excitement in the scientific community with respect to this," he said.

Nominations from around the world for the award open Jan. 1 and will close Feb. 28. The advisory panel will forward the names of three finalists, who will make presentations to Sanford's international board, which will choose the recipient.

The first prize will be announced Dec. 5, 2018.

The prize is made possible by donors of Sanford Health, including namesake donor Denny Sanford, who has contributed almost $1 billion over the past decade to the nonprofit health system.