The winner of the 2013 Maurice Hilleman/Merck Award is Emil C. Gotschlich, M.D., Rockefeller University, New York City, New York, for his groundbreaking work that established the science of modern vaccinology and led to the creation of successful vaccines. This prestigious award is named in honor of Maurice Hilleman, who helped saved many lives through his work in the development of vaccines.
Gotschlich earned both his Bachelor’s and Medical degrees from New York University, and completed an internship in medicine at Bellevue Hospital. Gotschlich has been at the Rockefeller University in the Laboratory of Bacteriology and Immunology since 1960 where he started as a Guest Investigator, and went on to become Professor and Senior Physician. From 1966 to 1968 Gotschlich served as Captain in the Medical Corps of the U.S. Army stationed at the Department of Bacteriology at Walter Reed Army Institute of Research. Later, Gotschlich served as Vice President for Medical Sciences at the Rockefeller University and CEO of the Rockefeller University Hospital from 1996 to 2005. Currently Gotschlich is serving as Professor Emeritus and is the Chair of the Rockefeller University Institutional Review Board, a position he has held since 2002.
Gotschlich is recognized for his leadership in the development of the group A and group C meningococcal polysaccharide vaccines, work that was initiated during his military service and continued for several years upon his return to the Rockefeller University. These were the first vaccines that were standardized not by efficacy in an animal model, but on the basis of physical and chemical criteria. According to his nominator, Rino Rappuoli, Novartis Vaccines and Diagnostics, “These findings provided the basis for the development of meningococcal vaccines. He defined the composition and chemical properties of the capsular polysaccharides, pioneered their testing in humans, and developed methods to determine the antibody levels. His work was of immediate use to eliminate an epidemic of meningococcal meningitis in Brazil and for the global licensure of polysaccharide vaccines against meningococcus.” He also led a multi-year research program on the significance in pathogenesis of surface proteins and lipo-oligosaccharides of the closely related organism the gonococcus. Gary Schoolnik, Stanford University, says that Gotschlich’s “studies have provided a kind of road map for the rational development of other vaccines including the need to meld disciplines as seemingly diverse as medicine, epidemiology, biochemistry and immunology; to advocate strongly for the early participation of the pharmaceutical industry; and to discover ways that basic and applied research can be synergistic when carried out during the course of the same project.”
In addition to being a Fellow of the American Academy of Microbiology, Gotschlich’s other honors and awards include the Squibb Award of the Infectious Diseases Society of America, (co-recipient) 1974; Albert Lasker Award for Clinical Medicine, (co-recipient) 1978; National Academy of Sciences, 1987; Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences, 1988; The Solomon A. Berson Medical Alumni Achievement Award in Basic Science, 1990; DART/NYU NYU Alumnus Award in Biotechnology.