2014 Annual Bipartisan Congressional Awards Dinner

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The Alliance for Aging Research held the 21st Annual Bipartisan Congressional Awards Dinner on Tuesday, September 30, 2014 at the Willard InterContinental Hotel. The Alliance was proud to honor the following individuals for their contributions to advance the science of human aging:

The Honorable Bill Nelson (2014 Claude Pepper Award for Advancing Healthy Aging)

Sen. Bill Nelson is a true son of Florida, his family coming to the Panhandle in 1829, and his grandparents homesteading in the early 20th Century on land that today is the Kennedy Space Center.

From a spot near there Nelson would launch into space in 1986 and spend six days orbiting the Earth aboard the space shuttle Columbia.

Nearly three decades later he still vividly recalls looking back at our planet from the window of the shuttle and not seeing any political, religious or racial divides.

“From that perspective, you can see how we’re all in this together,” he says. “If we could just remember that, we’d sure get a lot more done.”

It’s that kind of perspective that has earned Nelson a reputation as a thoughtful, moderate voice in an increasingly partisan political world.

Nelson’s public service career began in 1972, with his election to the Florida Legislature. He then served six terms in the U.S. Congress representing Orlando and the Space Coast, becoming an early champion of the environment.

In 1994, Nelson was elected to the Florida Cabinet as state Treasurer, Insurance Commissioner and Fire Marshal. During his six years in the post, he showed he was a common-sense problem solver and strong consumer advocate.

Nelson was first elected to the U.S. Senate in November 2000. Since then, he’s stood up to the insurance companies, Wall Street banks and Big Oil. He’s exposed the lies of BP about the Gulf spill. And he’s created a blueprint forward for our nation’s space agency. Now in his third term, he’s continuing to fight for lower taxes, better education, Medicare and Social Security.

He’s someone who thinks public service is a noble calling – which is why he’s devoted his life to serving his community, his state and his country.

Learn more about the legacy of Claude Pepper, for whom this award has been named.

The Honorable Mitchell E. Daniels, Jr (2014 Senator Orrin Hatch Award for Advancing Healthy Aging)

Mitchell E. Daniels, Jr. is the 12th president of Purdue University, a post he assumed in January 2013, at the conclusion of his term as Governor of Indiana.

Daniels was elected Indiana’s 49th governor in 2004, in his first bid for any elected office. He was re-elected in 2008, receiving more votes than any candidate for any public office in the state’s history. As governor, Daniels spearheaded a host of reforms aimed at strengthening the Indiana economy, and improving the ethical standards, fiscal condition and performance of state government.

As governor, Daniels’ conservation efforts set aside record acreages of protected wetlands and wildlife habitats and added more than 3,000 miles of hiking and biking trails. His efforts earned him the nickname “The Teddy Roosevelt of Indiana” by the Nature Conservancy.

Daniels came from a successful career in business and government, holding numerous top management positions in both the private and public sectors. He served as CEO of the Hudson Institute and President of Eli Lilly and Company’s North American Pharmaceutical Operations. He also served as a senior advisor to President Ronald Reagan and as Director of the Office of Management and Budget under George W. Bush.

At Purdue, President Daniels has made student affordability and student success top priorities, and has pledged to keep a Purdue education within reach for students and families. Purdue tuition was held constant this school year and Daniels intends to ask the university’s Board of Trustees to freeze tuition through at least the 2015-16 academic year.

Other top priorities include accelerating growth in three areas that are key to the national economy and support Purdue’s strengths (engineering, technology and computer science); infusing resources in selected areas of research; and facilitating commercialization of research.

Daniels earned a bachelor’s degree from the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs at Princeton in 1971 and his law degree from Georgetown in 1979. He is the author of three books.

Daniels and his wife Cheri have four daughters.

Jay Walker (2014 Silver Innovator Award)

Jay Walker is curator and chairman of TEDMED, the health and medicine edition of the world-famous TED organization, whose online talks have been watched more than one billion times.

Dedicated to “unlocking imagination in service of health and medicine,” TEDMED is a global, multi-disciplinary community of leading doers and thinkers from all walks of life and every sector of society.

Jay is also Executive Chairman and Lead Inventor of Patent Properties, Inc., a public company that is developing a voluntary, private-enterprise solution to diffuse more innovation through the U.S. economy in a way that is simple and affordable for all.

A serial entrepreneur, Jay is the founder of three companies that each serve more than 50 million customers. He is best known as the creator of Priceline, which created a new level of value for the travel and hospitality industries. Priceline has grown into a business with a $60 billion market cap, second only to Apple computer on the S&P as the company with the highest 10-year compounded growth rate.

Jay is the world’s 11th most patented living inventor. He is a named inventor on more than 700 U.S. patents. His inventions provide unique business systems and solutions across a dozen different industries.

A noted expert on imagination, Jay created and curates one of the world’s great private libraries: The Library of The History of Human Imagination. Filled with books, manuscripts, historical artifacts and treasures of all kinds, especially in the field of medicine, the facility was described by Wired magazine as “the most amazing library in the world.”

In addition to serving as an active member of The President’s Circle of the National Academies, Jay is also a member of The Atlantic Council and the non-profit TED.

Whether you think of Jay as curator of TEDMED, prolific inventor, serial entrepreneur, founder of Priceline, or as the creator of one of the world’s great libraries, Jay Walker is sure to challenge your thinking about the future of health and medicine.

J. Craig Venter, PhD (2014 Indispensable Person of the Year Award)

J. Craig Venter, PhD, is a biologist renowned for his contributions in sequencing the first draft human genome in 2001, the first complete diploid human genome in 2007 and construction of the first synthetic bacterial cell in 2010. He is a co-founder and CEO of Human Longevity Inc (HLI), a privately held genomics and cell therapy-based diagnostic and therapeutic company focused on extending the healthy, high performance human life span. He is also founder, chairman and CEO of the J. Craig Venter Institute (JCVI) and a co-founder and CEO of Synthetic Genomics Inc (SGI), a  privately held company focused on developing products and solutions using synthetic genomic technologies. He and his teams are focused on a variety of projects and programs including: synthetic genomic research and the application of these advances to develop new vaccines and food and nutritional products, new biofuels and biochemicals; continued analysis of the human genome including the human microbiome, and discovering and understanding genetic diversity in the world’s oceans. Dr. Venter is a recipient of the 2008 National Medal of Science and is a member of the National Academy of Sciences.  He is the author of Life at the Speed of Light: From the Double Helix to the Dawn of Digital Life (Viking, 2013) and A Life Decoded: My Genome: My Life (Viking, 2007).