Dr. Brian Kaspar, Dr. Jean Bennett, Dr. Katherine High and Dr. James Wilson.

Meet the finalists for the Sanford Lorraine Cross Award

November 2, 2018

From among the world’s most daring and determined innovators working in the most promising fields of medical science, just four finalists have emerged to compete for the inaugural $1 million Sanford Lorraine Cross Award.

The winner will be announced at a special event in December.

“To find our four finalists, we identified medical and research pioneers, which led us specifically to the field of gene therapy,” said David Pearce, Ph.D., executive vice president of innovation and research at Sanford Health. “These four finalists helped lay the groundwork for much of what is being explored now, and we want to honor them for that.”


The finalists are:


Giving sight to dozens and hope to even more.

Sight is something many of us take for granted. For Dr. Jean Bennett and Dr. Katherine High, it’s a precious gift that they’re helping to restore in dozens of patients.

Through a decades-long collaboration, they’ve partnered to spearhead clinical trials and groundbreaking research, crossing the finish line in getting the first FDA approval on a gene therapy drug to cure a specific form of congenital retinal dystrophy. This landmark therapy is giving patients the gift of sight and giving hope to all pioneers in gene therapy.


Big cures for the smallest patients.

Spinal muscular atrophy is the number one genetic cause of death for infants. It leaves children without the ability to walk, talk, eat and even breathe.

But through revolutionary research in gene therapy, Dr. Brian Kaspar is helping the smallest patients do big things. His work in groundbreaking gene therapy for muscle atrophy is bringing more effective, non-invasive treatment options to families worldwide, slowing down the disease – not those living with it.


Building the foundation for broad impact.

Sometimes medicine’s most important work isn’t with patients. It’s with processes, spending hours in the lab to solidify the building blocks upon which scientific innovation can happen.

Dr. James Wilson has been pioneering this innovation in gene therapy for 35 years, setting the stage for medicine’s next revolution. His work has paved the way for scientists around the world to develop therapeutics built on his research of gene transfer vectors.

See inspiring interactive stories about each of these nominees.

“These individuals are changing the world,” said David Shulkin, Sanford International Board member and Sanford Health chief of innovation. “At Sanford, we want to reward innovation and scientific breakthroughs. We’re committed to finding the next frontier in medicine and research, and recognizing others with the same goal.”

Candidates for the award were filtered through nominations from the public and a computer algorithm that sifted through medical publications in search of great discoveries. An interdisciplinary scientific advisory board identified top areas of innovation and the candidates were narrowed down to the top four.

Next month, the Sanford International Board will hear presentations from the award finalists and then determine the winner. The award will be presented in Sioux Falls on Dec. 4.


The Founders Circle

The $1 million prize, awarded every other year, will be supported in perpetuity through an endowment established by donors to the Sanford Health Foundation.

Donors who invest $1 million or more are honored as members of the Founders Circle and celebrated for their visionary generosity.

To learn more, please contact Helen Henkin Kluck by email or call (605) 312-6700.