The American Society for Microbiology (ASM) Maurice Hilleman/Merck Award has gone to Stanley A. Plotkin, M.D., Professor Emeritus, Wistar Institute and the University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, for his lifetime of dedication to vaccinology, including his role in developing vaccines for Hepatitis A.
This award, established in the memory of Maurice Hilleman, honors major contributions to pathogenesis, vaccine discovery, vaccine development, and/or control of vaccine-preventable diseases.
Dr. Hilleman is credited with developing over 40 vaccines, including those that prevent measles, mumps, rubella, Haemophilus influenzae type b, hepatitis A, hepatitis B, and chickenpox. These vaccines save millions of lives each year, and he is frequently credited with saving more lives than any other scientist of the 20th century.
Dr. Plotkin received his M.D. from the State University of New York College of Medicine, Brooklyn, and is credited with two major accomplishments. Human viruses had been attenuated by serial passage in non-human cells, a technique employed by Dr. Hilleman for the measles, mumps, and first rubella vaccines. In the 1970s, Plotkin took a strain of rubella virus from an infected fetus and attenuated it by low-temperature adaption in fetal embryo fibroblast cells. This work led to Dr. Plotkin being the first to attenuate a human virus by adaptation to low temperature and the first to make a vaccine in human cells.
Dr. Plotkin developed RA 27/3, a rubella vaccine and the first licensed vaccine made in human cells. RA 27/3 is used worldwide and as a result, the U.S., Canada, several Latin American countries, and the English speaking Caribbean Islands are free of rubella. It is expected that by 2010 the Americas will be rubella free, and by 2016, so will the European and Central Asian regions.