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Two CVD Researchers Receive Special Honor From Mali Government

Monday, August 02, 2006

Dr. Myron Levine
 Dr. Myron Levine

Two researchers from the University of Maryland School of Medicine in Baltimore have received prestigious honors from the Mali government in recognition of their efforts to develop and distribute vaccines to children in that country who are vulnerable to numerous infectious diseases common in Africa. The awards were presented at a special ceremony in Mali in June on behalf of the President of Mali, His Excellency Amadou Toumani Touré.

Myron M. Levine, M.D., D.T.P.H, professor of medicine, microbiology and immunology, and pediatrics, and director of the Center for Vaccine Development (CVD) at the University of Maryland School of Medicine was given the highest level award, the Ordre National du Mali, Grand Officiel rank. Karen L. Kotloff, M.D., professor of pediatrics and medicine and chief of the Community Studies Section at the Center for Vaccine Development at the University of Maryland School of Medicine received the

Ordre National du Mali, Chevaliere rank, the second highest level. Mali was historically part of French West Africa and follows many French traditions. The Ordre National du Mali (National Order of Mali) follows the tradition of the Légion d’Honneur (Legion of Honor) of France. Previous recipients of the Grand Officiel rank of the Ordre National du Mali include former United States President Jimmy Carter and French President Jacques Chirac.

“Although the Ordre du Mali medals were bestowed upon Karen Kotloff and me as individuals, we accept them on behalf of our many colleagues at the Center for Vaccine Development and our CVD-Mali team who have worked together so diligently and effectively to design ways to control certain communicable diseases in Mali,” says Dr. Levine.

"It has been a great opportunity to work in Mali, and I am extremely honored to receive their recognition,” says Dr. Kotloff. “However, the truth of the matter is that the credit for the success of the CVD-Mali goes to our Malian collaborators. They have worked very hard to build an outstanding center for research and training in infectious diseases."

The Center for Vaccine Development has been working with health officials in Mali for more than a decade to develop vaccines and treatments for such childhood illnesses as measles, meningitis, sepsis, typhoid fever and diarrheal diseases, to make immunization services to infants more efficient and to achieve higher levels of vaccination coverage.

In 2000, the Ministry of Health of Mali and the University of Maryland School of Medicine signed a formal agreement to establish the CVD-Mali to provide laboratory space and resources for CVD researchers working in the country and to train Malian scientists and physicians.

Since then, with funding from a $20 million grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the CVD and CVD-Mali have worked to develop a measles vaccine to immunize infants in developing countries who are too young to receive the currently licensed measles vaccine. That candidate vaccine has shown highly promising results in animal models. A field site in Mali has been established and a Malian clinical trials team has been trained to carry out phase 1 and phase 2 clinical trials of the new vaccine. 

In April 2005, the CVD received an additional grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation for $3.6 million to study the impact of vaccinating children in Mali against the disease-causing bacterium Haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib), which causes fatal meningitis and other serious infections that affect many infants in Mali. A conjugate vaccine routinely given to infants in the United States and Europe since the 1990s can prevent illnesses caused by Hib. CVD-Mali researchers worked with Malian health authorities and helped them apply for a five-year supply of Hib vaccine from the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunizations. Distribution of those vaccines began in July 2005.

“Mali is an African country blessed by having a chief of state who is an inspiring, visionary, dynamic leader, with a long-time interest in improving the health of infants and young children in his country,” says Dr. Levine. “Although classified by United Nations standards as among the five least developed countries in the world, Mali is an exciting and inspiring place to work. Despite the poverty, optimism abounds among its people.”

On the day Drs. Levine and Kotloff received their awards, the Prime Minister of Mali and the Malian Minister of Health joined the country’s president in a visit to the CVD site in Mali that included an inauguration of renovated laboratory and informatics facilities and a welcome home to two Malian scientists who recently returned from two years of training at the CVD in Baltimore to lead research activities in the new laboratories.

“These awards to these outstanding investigators serve as an example of the
excellence of the faculty at the University of Maryland School of Medicine,” says Donald E. Wilson, M.D., M.A.C.P, Vice President of Medical Affairs, University of Maryland and Dean of the School of Medicine. “This honor is a testament to the long-standing tradition of our medical school to provide our expertise and assistance throughout the world.”



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