Peter Hotez Presented Ashford Medal at 100th Anniversary Meeting of Medical Society

PHILADELPHIA, PA, December 3, 2003—Hartford, Connecticut native Peter J. Hotez, MD, PhD, FAAP claimed the 2003 Bailey K. Ashford Medal here today at the centenary meeting of the American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene. Hotez is chairman of Microbiology and Tropical Medicine, The George Washington University, and senior fellow of the Albert Sabin Vaccine Institute, headquartered in New Canaan, Connecticut.

Hotez is the principal investigator on a Human Hookworm Vaccine Initiative funded by the Sabin Institute and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to develop a vaccine for hookworm-induced malnutrition and anemia. An anti-hookworm vaccine would be an important technological advance for use in rural developing economies where traditional methods have previously failed. The vaccine would also decrease reliance on continuous use of drugs that only temporarily deal with the condition and it would thereby reduce the likelihood of emerging drug resistance.

The award was presented to Hotez by Sabin Institute founding president Maj. Gen. Philip K. Russell, MD (USA Ret.), who is currently special advisor on vaccine production and development for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Public Health Preparedness. Sabin Institute chairman H.R. Shepherd, DSc, said, “The dedication and humanism of vaccine researchers cannot be overestimated, and Peter Hotez exemplifies this dedication to an extraordinary degree. He is as deserving of this special recognition as any of the great investigators of our time or any time.”

Celebrating its centennial, the American Society for Tropical Medicine and Hygiene continues its meeting through Dec. 7 in Philadelphia, PA. The meeting includes more than 500 symposia, lectures and scientific presentations, with 2,000 researchers and physicians specializing in tropical medicine and parasitology in attendance.

First given in 1941 as a triennial award for mid-career scientists, the Ashford Medal is given for distinguished work in tropical medicine and recognizes the work of individuals who have provided important breakthroughs in the understanding and control of tropical diseases. It is especially fitting that Hotez, a hookworm disease investigator, received the award named for Ashford, who determined the cause of hookworm disease among Puerto Rican farmers in 1899. Until his death in 1934, Ashford was a professor of tropical medicine and mycology at Columbia University in New York.

Hotez’s path to recognition by the tropical medicine community has been achieved over many years of dedicated pursuit. As a child, Hotez was fascinated by the microscopic life below the murky waters of a brook near his home. He was especially impressed by daphnia, one of the most common crustaceans to be found in lakes and ponds. At age 14, Hotez volunteered at the Connecticut State Department of Health, compiling records of parasite incidence in fecal samples.

As an undergraduate at Yale University, he held onto his fascination and was mentored by an international expert in the field of molecular parasitology. While pursuing both his medical and doctorate degree from Rockefeller University, he began studying the parasitic hookworm. There was almost nothing in the scientific literature regarding this parasite, and it was then that Hotez saw his singular opportunity to make a difference in the field of medical molecular parasitology and on humanity.

The mission of the Albert B. Sabin Vaccine Institute is to save lives by stimulating development of new vaccines and increasing immunization rates throughout the world. Founded in 1993, the Institute pursues Dr. Albert Sabin’s vision of a world protected from disease by vaccines.