Dr. LaForce Honored for his Integral Role in Developing a New Meningitis Vaccine
Washington, D.C. – May 7, 2012 – Today, the Sabin Vaccine Institute presented its annual Albert B. Sabin Gold Medal Award to Dr. F. Marc LaForce for his integral role in developing a new meningitis vaccine, MenAfriVac™, which has the potential to prevent one million cases of disease and save 150,000 lives and up to $300 million in medical costs over the next decade.
“We are delighted to present Dr. LaForce with the 2012 Albert B. Sabin Gold Medal Award for his significant contribution to the field of vaccinology,” said Dr. Peter Hotez, President of the Sabin Vaccine Institute. “Dr. LaForce truly embodies the spirit of the late Dr. Sabin in his commitment to reducing suffering and death for the world’s poorest populations.”
Meningitis, an infection of the lining of the brain and spinal cord, can cause severe pain and death. Ten percent of those with meningitis die within hours, while survivors often suffer from lifelong disabilities including deafness, epilepsy and mental retardation.
The new vaccine is supplied by the Serum Institute of India, Ltd. at less than US$ 0.50 per dose, and was first introduced in 2010 in Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger. Immediately following the vaccine’s launch, the incidence of meningitis in those countries dropped to zero. To date, approximately 55 million people have received MenAfriVac™, and there are plans to expand distribution of the vaccine to the 25 worst-affected countries in Africa – known as the “meningitis belt”—by 2016.
“I am truly honored to receive this award,” said Dr. LaForce. “Meningitis is one of the most devastating—yet preventable—diseases plaguing countries not only in Africa, but all around the world. As we see more success from MenAfriVac, I hope we can continue to expand our preventive programs to reduce and ultimately eliminate all meningococcal outbreaks.”
Dr. LaForce completed his work on MenAfriVac™ while serving as the director of the Meningitis Vaccine Project, a product development partnership (PDP) between the global health non-profit organization PATH and the World Health Organization (WHO), with support from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
The annual Albert B. Sabin Gold Medal Award is the highest scientific honor bestowed by the Sabin Vaccine Institute. It commemorates the legacy of Dr. Sabin, who developed the oral live virus polio vaccine that is widely heralded with contributing to the near eradication of polio worldwide.
Dr. LaForce will be honored today at a ceremony held in conjunction with the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases (NFID) Annual Conference at the Hyatt Regency Baltimore in Baltimore, Maryland.
About Sabin Vaccine Institute
Sabin Vaccine Institute is a non-profit, 501(c)(3) organization of scientists, researchers, and advocates dedicated to reducing needless human suffering caused by vaccine preventable and neglected tropical diseases. Sabin works with governments, leading public and private organizations, and academic institutions to provide solutions for some of the world’s most pervasive health challenges. Since its founding in 1993 in honor of the oral polio vaccine developer, Dr. Albert B. Sabin, the Institute has been at the forefront of efforts to control, treat, and eliminate these diseases by developing new vaccines, advocating the use of existing vaccines, and promoting increased access to affordable medical treatments. For more information please visit www.sabin.org.