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University of Maryland School of Medicine's Myron M. Levine, MD, Wins Prestigious American Society for Microbiology Award

Monday, June 18, 2012

 Dr. Myron Levine

Hilleman/Merck Award Recognizes Major Contributions to Vaccine Development and Discovery

Myron M. Levine, M.D., D.T.P.H., founding director of the Center for Vaccine Development at the University of Maryland School of Medicine, has been chosen to receive the American Society for Microbiology’s prestigious annual Maurice Hilleman/Merck Award. The award is ASM’s “premier award for major contributions to vaccine discovery, vaccine development, and/or control of vaccine-preventable diseases,” according to the society. Dr. Levine, who co-founded the Center for Vaccine Development (CVD) in 1974, is also the Betsy & Simon Grollman Distinguished Professor in the Departments of Medicine, Pediatrics, Microbiology & Immunology and Epidemiology & Public Health. 

Dr. Levine says “I accept the award, while acknowledging the many colleagues and trainees who have worked with me over the decades and who made invaluable contributions to our accomplishments at the CVD.  In the early 1970s the terms “vaccinology” and “global health” were rarely used.  I have been very lucky over my career to be able to pursue these interests (indeed passions!) in parallel and to help make them mainstream.  It is with gratitude and humility that I accept this recognition from my colleagues in the field.”

Dr. Levine is a strong advocate for vaccines that can be administered without injection (for example, by mouth). He has made seminal contributions in the construction of a number of vaccines, performed studies to determine how certain bacteria cause disease, carried out clinical evaluation of many new vaccines, measured the incidence of specific infectious diseases and introduced new vaccines into the routine immunization schedule to help improve the public health of multiple countries.  His laboratory research has focused on the construction of genetically-engineered weakened strains of the bacterial germs that cause typhoid and paratyphoid fever, invasive non-typhoidal Salmonella disease, and dysentery, to serve as live oral vaccines. 

“Dr. Levine is a world class physician-scientist and an outstanding example for our students and for the rest of our faculty,” says E. Albert Reece, M.D., Ph.D., M.B.A., vice president for medical affairs of the University of Maryland and the John Z. and Akiko K. Bowers Distinguished Professor and dean, University of Maryland School of Medicine. “He is an anchor for the outstanding research enterprise here at the University of Maryland, and we are delighted to see him honored in this way. He is most deserving.”

Dr. Levine has applied his extensive experience working on the epidemiology and prevention of infectious diseases in developing countries to his research on the development and testing of vaccines.  He has 42 years of experience in conducting clinical trials to evaluate whether various new vaccines are well tolerated, immunogenic (capable of stimulating protective responses) and efficacious (able to prevent the disease) in target age populations in developing countries, including vaccines developed at the CVD.  He designed and supervised the large-scale field trials in Santiago, Chile in the 1980s that demonstrated the safety and efficacy of live oral typhoid vaccine strain Ty21a, ultimately leading to its licensure by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).  His work with the “Hib” conjugate vaccine that prevents meningitis, septicemia and other invasive infections caused by the pathogen Haemophilus influenzae Type b led to early introductions of that vaccine for routine immunization of infants in Chile (1996) and Mali, West Africa (2005).  Dr. Levine has a long track record of training individuals to pursue careers in vaccinology and many have themselves since made major contributions to vaccinology.

He is a member of editorial boards of several journals and consults for many organizations including the World Health Organization, NIH, the Vaccine Research Center, Institute of Medicine, the U.S. Department of Defense and multiple vaccine biotech companies and vaccine manufacturers.  He was a member of the first Working Group of the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization (GAVI Alliance) and was Co-Chair of the GAVI Task Force on Research and Development.  He is a member of the Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences, the Association of American Physicians, the American Society of Clinical Investigation and the Academy of Microbiology.  He is a past President of the American Epidemiological Society and of the American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene. 

Dr. Levine is a distinguished physician-scientist who has received many previous awards and honors.  Among these are the Albert B. Sabin Gold Medal for lifetime achievement in vaccinology, selection by the editors of Baltimore Magazine as “Baltimorean of the Year” (2001) and award of the rank of “Grand Officer of the National Order of Mali” (2005) by the President of Mali (for efforts in introducing new vaccines to the children of Mali). He has published 521 articles in medical and scientific journals and 114 book chapters and is Senior Editor of the 4th edition of New Generation Vaccines, a textbook of research vaccinology.

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