April 27, 2010

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Clemens Honored for Efforts to Cure Preventable Diseases, Forge Goodwill through Vaccine Diplomacy

Dr. John D. Clemens, Director General of the International Vaccine Institute (IVI) in Seoul, Korea will receive the 2010 Albert B. Sabin Gold Medal Award today during a ceremony at The George Washington University in Washington, DC. Throughout his career, including the past ten years as Director General of IVI, Dr. Clemens has mirrored the late Dr. Albert B. Sabin’s legacy of reducing suffering and promoting peace through the development, evaluation, and distribution of vaccines.

Awarded annually since 1994, the Gold Medal Award—the highest scientific honor bestowed by the Sabin Vaccine Institute—commemorates the legacy of Dr. Sabin, whose vaccine diplomacy efforts in the Soviet Union during the Cold War led to the development of the oral live virus polio vaccine.

IVI has heralded vaccine diplomacy in many areas, including the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea Program, which aims to reduce the disease burden of Hib and Japanese encephalitis in North Korean children by providing technical assistance in laboratory diagnosis and surveillance of these diseases and in the introduction of vaccines to prevent them.

“The power of vaccines goes far beyond improving health and reducing disease burdens. Dr. Clemens’ career is a testimony to the fact that vaccines can also reduce poverty, conflict, and promote peace and stronger ties between nations,” said Dr. Peter Hotez, President of the Sabin Vaccine Institute and Distinguished Research Professor at The George Washington University. “Dr. Clemens exemplifies the spirit of Dr. Sabin in his unrelenting commitment to developing vaccines for some of the world’s most vulnerable populations in the developing world and in his recognition that every individual has the right to receive quality vaccines and realize their maximum potential.”

A world-renowned expert in vaccine development and evaluation in developing countries, Dr. Clemens led the first efficacy trial of an oral vaccine against cholera, and conducted additional research on a measles vaccine as a research scientist at the International Center for Diarrheal Disease Research, Bangladesh; during the 1980s. During the cholera study, Dr. Clemens discovered that the cholera vaccine was highly effective at protecting women and children and that the vaccine provided herd immunity, breakthroughs that revolutionized the field and led to over two decades of continued research. He has also conducted studies of vaccines against enterotoxigenic Escherichia coli, typhoid fever, pneumococcus, tuberculosis, Haemophilus influenzae type b, measles, and Japanese encephalitis in Chile, China, Egypt, India, Indonesia, Mozambique, Pakistan, Thailand, and Vietnam.

“I am humbled to be receiving an award commemorating one of the great heroes of vaccinology, Albert Sabin, and to be in the company of past recipients of the award, all of whom I admire, and several of whom have been my friends and mentors,” said Dr. Clemens.

In a related analysis in the April 27 edition of the journal PLoS Neglected Tropical Diseases (www.plosntds.org), Dr. Hotez editorializes that for a fraction of the cost of maintaining a nuclear arsenal, the 11 nuclear states (United States, Russia, United Kingdom, France, China, India, Pakistan, North Korea, Israel, Iran and potentially Syria) could eliminate these kinds of neglected infections within their borders, which account for up to 50% of the global disease burden.

“In the coming decade, engaging the nuclear powers on neglected disease R&D and global implementation efforts [would] represent a significant diplomatic victory for the world,” concludes Dr. Hotez.

“The George Washington University congratulates Dr. Clemens and his colleagues for their important work in distributing vaccines for neglected diseases,” said Steven Knapp, President of The George Washington University. “We are proud to partner with the Sabin Vaccine Institute in highlighting this significant contribution to global health.”

About Sabin Vaccine Institute
Sabin Vaccine Institute is a 501c3 non-profit organization dedicated to reducing human suffering from infectious and neglected diseases. Through its efforts in vaccine research, development and advocacy, Sabin works to provide greater access to vaccines and essential medicines for millions mired in pain, poverty and despair. Founded in 1993 in honor of Dr. Albert B. Sabin, discoverer of the oral polio vaccine, the Sabin Vaccine Institute works with prestigious institutions, scientists, medical professionals, and organizations to provide short and long-term solutions that result in healthier individuals, families and communities around the globe.

About the IVI
The International Vaccine Institute (IVI) is the world’s only international organization devoted exclusively to developing and introducing new and improved vaccines for the world’s poorest people, especially children in developing countries. Established as an initiative of the United Nations Development Programme in 1997, the IVI operates under a treaty signed by 40 countries and the World Health Organization. The IVI conducts research in more than 30 countries in Asia, Africa and Latin America on vaccines against diarrheal infections, bacterial meningitis and pneumonia, Japanese encephalitis, and dengue fever, and develops new and improved vaccines, delivery routes and adjuvants at its headquarters in Seoul, Korea. For more information, please visit: www.ivi.int

About The George Washington University 
In the heart of the nation's capital with additional programs in Virginia, The George Washington University was created by an Act of Congress in 1821. Today, GW is the largest institution of higher education in the District of Columbia. The University offers comprehensive programs of undergraduate and graduate liberal arts study, as well as degree programs in medicine, public health, law, engineering, education, business and international affairs. Each year, GW enrolls a diverse population of undergraduate, graduate and professional students from all 50 states, the District of Columbia and more than 130 countries.