APR 05, 2013
Alfred Sommer, MD, MHS, who discovered that vitamin A supplementation can save children's vision, is among this year's winners of the prestigious Dan David Prize. The prize recognizes and encourages innovative and interdisciplinary research that cuts across traditional boundaries and paradigms to advance and improve the world. Dr. Sommer is professor of epidemiology and international health at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and was the recipient of the Academy's 2011 Laureate Recognition Award.
While studying whether vitamin A supplementation could prevent blindness in children in Indonesia, he found that not only were the children in the study who received the vitamin retaining their vision, but they had a significantly lower mortality rate than children who received a placebo. His research ultimately demonstrated that vitamin A deficiency dramatically increased childhood morbidity and mortality from infectious disease, and that a 4-cent dose of vitamin A prevented and cured eye disease and reduced childhood deaths by 34 percent.
The Dan David Prize is an international enterprise endowed by the Dan David Foundation and headquartered at Tel Aviv University. Three prizes of $1 million are awarded each year to individuals or institutions that have made an outstanding contribution to humanity in the sciences, arts and humanities.