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Prof. Stanley A Plotkin

International Awards

Hamdan Award for Medical Research Excellence - Vaccines

Personal Details and Academic Background:

Dr. Stanley A. Plotkin is Emeritus Professor of the University of Pennsylvania, and Adjunct Professor of the Johns Hopkins University. Until 1991, he was Professor of Pediatrics and Microbiology at the University of Pennsylvania, Professor of Virology at the Wistar Institute and at the same time, Director of Infectious Diseases and Senior Physician at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. In 1991, Dr. Plotkin left the University to join the vaccine manufacturer, Pasteur-Merieux-Connaught (now called Sanofi Pasteur), where, for seven years he was Medical and Scientific Director, based at Marnes-la-Coquette, just outside Paris.

Dr. Plotkin attended New York University, where he received a B.A. degree, and then the State University of New York Medical School in Brooklyn, where he received an M.D. degree in 1956. His subsequent career included internship at Cleveland Metropolitan General Hospital, residency in pediatrics at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and the Hospital for Sick Children in London and three years in the Epidemic Intelligence Service of the Centers for Disease Control of the US Public Health Service.

Responsibilities and Assignments:

Prof. Stanley Plotkin worked both in academia and the industry. During his time in academia, he maintained laboratories at both the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and Wistar. He put together the first and only textbook on vaccines in 1988, titled Vaccines. Now in its sixth edition, Vaccines, has become the standard source of information for the field of vaccination, and has been translated into Spanish and Chinese. He was one of the founders of the International Advanced Vaccinology Course (ADVAC), which is held each year at Annecy, France, and attended by mid-career professionals from Europe, the Americas, Africa and Asia. ADVAC has set the gold standard for similar courses, and resulted in the establishment of vaccinology courses in the four corners of the world, but no other has achieved the prominence of the Annecy course. Both his book and course have informed the studies of young vaccinologists and been a prominent resource for all people working on vaccines.

Currently, Plotkin serves as Executive Advisor to the CEO of Sanofi-Pasteur. He is also a consultant to vaccine manufacturers, biotechnology companies and non-profit research organizations as principal of Vaxconsult.

Plotkin has been chairman of the Infectious Diseases Committee and the AIDS Task Force of the American Academy of Pediatrics, liaison member of the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices and Chairman of the Microbiology and Infectious Diseases Research Committee of the National Institutes of Health. He continues to teach, write and advise as a consultant to industry, non-profit foundations and biotech companies, advocating the application of new scientific findings to the development of vaccines. His innovations in vaccine research have had a global impact, saving countless lives and promoting healthy future for the citizens of the world.


Research, Achievements and Professional Milestones:

Stanley Plotkin has made seminal contributions to the fields of virology and vaccinology, and is considered to be one of the world’s leading vaccinologists. He has worked over the last five decades to develop new vaccines, foster their use and educate professionals about them. Not only did he develop the rubella vaccine, which is now in standard use throughout the world; saving millions of children from congenital abnormalities, but he also contributed to the development of a pentavalent rotavirus vaccine, an anthrax vaccine, the oral poliovirus vaccine, the cultured rabies vaccine and a varicella vaccine. His work on vaccines has had, and will continue to have, major medical benefit for millions of people.

Plotkin’s earliest work was done in developing the first oral polio vaccine in the laboratory of Dr. Hilary Koprowski. Although Albert Sabin’s strains were eventually chosen for world-wide use, the studies by Plotkin showing how oral polio vaccine could be used in newborn and older infants, both in developed and developing countries formed the basis for practices now in use.

Early in Plotkin’s career he was asked to test a vaccine against anthrax developed by the US Army. As a Public Health Service Officer, Plotkin was informed of an outbreak of inhaled anthrax at a clothing mill in New Hampshire. He studied the clinical manifestations and the epidemiology of the outbreak, which was the first in the 20th Century. His published article in this context is considered a classic and was reprinted after the 2001 anthrax-contaminated letters. The study also showed that the vaccine prevented the spread of anthrax. Following the rubella pandemic in the United States in the 1960s, Plotkin set to develop an attenuated viral vaccine that could be given before pregnancy. This vaccine has been part of routine vaccination since the 1970s and has resulted in the elimination of rubella in the Western Hemisphere and much of Europe, thus preventing the deaths or malformations of thousands of children.

Plotkin collaborated with Wiktor and Koprowski to develop a cell culture vaccine against rabies that could be given in four or five doses, without causing any neurological reactions. This has transformed rabies immunization to a sure protection, both before and after exposure. He also adapted human fetal fibroblasts cell culture, developed by Hayflick and Moorhead to the cultivation of viral vaccines. These cultures are now the gold standard for the safe production of human vaccines.

Plotkin was one of the first to test the Japanese Varicella vaccine and to argue publicly for its routine use, which is now the case in the US and some other countries. He and his colleagues also developed one of the two successful vaccines against rotavirus. This oral pentavalent vaccine has had a dramatic effect in the US in terms of reduction of disease and is also being employed outside the US in an effort to decrease rotavirus related mortality.

Plotkin has also been a pioneer in the development of strategies to vaccinate against Cytomegalovirus (CMV). Inasmuch as CMV is the most important cause of infectious complications of solid organ and stem cell transplantation, a vaccine would protect not only pregnant women but also gravely ill transplant recipients. After many years of being the only worker in the field, Plotkin is now leading efforts to bring one or more of the many competing candidate vaccines to licensure.

Awards and Recognition:

Dr. Plotkin received the Bruce Medal in Preventive Medicine of the American College of Physicians (1987), the Distinguished Physician Award of the Pediatric Infectious Diseases Society (1993), the Clinical Virology Award of the Pan American Society for Clinical Virology (1995), the Richard Day Master Teacher in Pediatrics Award of the Alumni Association of New York Downstate Medical College, and the Marshall Award of the European Society for Pediatric Infectious Diseases. He received the French Legion of Honor Medal (1998), Distinguished Alumnus Award (2001) and the Gold Medal from the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia (2006),           Fleming (Bristol) Award of the Infectious Diseases Society of America (2004), medal of the Fondation Merieux (2006), Finland Award of the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases (2009), Hilleman Award of the American Society for Microbiology (2009), Career Achievement Award from the Association for Clinical and Translational Medicine (2013), and the Caspar Wistar Medal of the Wistar Institute of Biological Research (2013).

He was elected to the Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences in 2005 and to the French Academy of Medicine in 2007. Plotkin holds honorary doctoral degrees from the University of Rouen (France) and the Complutense University of Madrid (Spain). Named lectures in his honor have been established at the Pediatric Academic Societies annual meeting and at the International Advanced Vaccinology Course in Annecy, France. A professorship in his name was established at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia.

In recognition of his outstanding contributions in pioneering work to the fields of virology and vaccinology, Professor Stanley Plotkin truly deserves the Hamdan Award for Medical Research Excellence in the field of Vaccines for the term 2013-2014.