Lawrence Corey, M.D., president and director of Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, has been honored with the 2012 Cubist-ICAAC Award. An internationally renowned expert in virology, immunology and vaccine development, Corey’s research focuses on herpes viruses, HIV, and other viral infections, particularly those associated with cancer. “Corey’s work was the first to demonstrate the safety of daily antiviral treatment for immunocompetent persons,” explains his nominator, Wesley Van Voorhis of the University of Washington. “His studies led to the routine use of antivirals not only for HSV-2—the field he has been the dominant figure in for three decades—but also HCV, HBV, and HIV.”
Corey earned his bachelor’s and medical degrees from the University of Michigan, and completed infectious diseases training at the University of Washington School of Medicine. He joined the faculty of the University of Washington in 1978, where he remains today as a Professor of Laboratory Medicine and holder of the Lawrence Corey Endowed Chair in Medical Virology. He is also an infectious disease physician at Seattle Cancer Care Alliance, in addition to his duties as president and director of the Hutchinson Center.
Corey is the principal investigator of the Hutchinson Center-based HIV Vaccine Trials Network (HVTN), an international collaboration of scientists and institutions that combines clinical trials and laboratory-based studies to accelerate the development of HIV vaccines. Under Corey’s leadership at the Hutchinson Center, the HVTN has become the model for global collaborative research, involving scientists on four continents and nine countries. “In this capacity, he has overseen the building of a clinical trials network infrastructure from only eight U.S. sites in 1998, to a program that has thirty clinical trial sites in fifteen countries on four continents,” explains Anthony S. Fauci, NIAID, NIH. “This network is now at the forefront of clinical trials of HIV vaccine candidates.”
Corey has been a pioneer in the development of antiviral therapy. In the early 1980s he worked with Nobel Prize-winning biochemist and pharmacologist Gertrude Elion to demonstrate that an antiviral that was selective and specific for a viral-specified enzyme could be safely and effectively administered to control a chronic viral infection (herpes simplex virus-2). These studies were directly responsible for the subsequent successful quest of the pharmaceutical and medical sciences communities to develop effective antiviral therapy for hepatitis B and HIV. In 1987 he directed the AIDS Clinical Trials Group, or ACTG, and under his leadership the use of the retroviral drug AZT to reduce maternal-fetal transmission of HIV and HAART (highly active retroviral therapy) were developed. His research group also was the first to identify an association between the virus that causes genital herpes (herpes simplex virus) and HIV. Through the ACTG he pioneered the integration of community members into clinical research activities.
“No one has contributed more to our understanding of herpes simplex virus pathogenesis and therapy than Corey,” states Martin Hirsch, Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts General Hospital. “From early work demonstrating that certain treatments don't work, to landmark studies of topical, intravenous and oral acyclovir and its congeners, Corey has led the way. In his elegant studies of HSV latency, he may well open up new avenues to cure, rather than suppression. He has taught us more about the pathogenesis, immunology, and treatment of genital herpes than any other investigator in the field.”
In the mid-1990s, Corey increasingly concentrated his scientific and leadership skills on the area of vaccine development, and in 1998 he worked with Fauci to develop a global clinical trials group to speed the development of HIV vaccines. In 2002, Corey recognized the need to further integrate research efforts in HIV vaccine development and spearheaded the development of the Global HIV Vaccine Enterprise, one of the few scientific programs overseen by leaders of the major industrialized countries. Fauci explains, “Corey is the only scientist in the country who had led two of our nation’s major HIV clinical trials programs—one in treatment and one in vaccine development—and hence has a unique perspective on the treatment and prevention of HIV infection.” Corey also conceived and led an international study that demonstrated that a daily dose of an antiviral drug cuts the transmission of the genital herpes virus by half. He currently is working to define how host immune cells control the herpes simplex virus and whether it will be possible to develop a vaccine to reduce infection reactivation.
In 2008, with funding from the Washington Life Sciences Discovery Fund, Corey founded the Hutchinson Center-based Washington Vaccine Alliance, or WAVA – a virtual biotechnology coalition of nonprofit research institutions dedicated to developing novel vaccines for the prevention of human diseases ranging from typhoid to syphilis to salmonella poisoning. Corey’s numerous honors and awards include election to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the Institute of Medicine. In addition, he received the Pan American Society’s Clinical Virology Award and the Parran Award of the American Society for STD Research.
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