The Vilcek Prize in the Arts, which this year focused on theater, was awarded to Blanka Zizka, a Czech immigrant who, as artistic director of the Wilma Theater in Philadelphia since 1981, has led the transformation of the organization from a volunteer-run collective to an established company with a 296-seat theater of its own. The Vilcek Prize in Biomedical Science was awarded to Romania-born Dan R. Littman, professor of molecular immunology at NYU School of Medicine, who in the 1990s uncovered crucial aspects of the mechanism by which HIV infects the human immune system. Each prize includes a $100,000 cash award.
The foundation also awarded six Vilcek Prizes for Creative Promise, which are given to younger immigrants who have shown substantial talent and ability early in their careers; each prize comes with a $50,000 cash award. The awardees in theater are Sarah Benson (United Kingdom), artistic director of the Soho Repertory Theatre in New York City; Desdemona Chiang (Taiwan), co-founder of Seattle-based theater company Azeotrope; and lighting designer Yi Zhao (China). The awardees in the field of biomedical science are Fernando Camargo (Peru), an associate professor at Harvard University and Boston Children’s Hospital; Roberta Capp (Brazil), an assistant professor at the University of Colorado School of Medicine; and Houra Merrikh (Iran), an assistant professor at the University of Washington School of Medicine.
"From improving healthcare access in underserved communities to developing institutional models that invest in artists and actors, the 2016 Vilcek Prizewinners demonstrate that immigrants are impacting all aspects of American society for the better," said Vilcek Foundation executive director Rick Kinsel.