Most people could not tell you who Maurice Hilleman was, although his contribution to medical science has been incredible. If he were still alive today at 101 years of age, according to those who knew him, this anonymity would probably not concern him too much.
The medical profession remembers him. Maurice Hilleman was towering figure in vaccinology in the 20th century. He developed over 40 vaccines against common diseases such as measles, mumps, hepatitis A and B, chickenpox, meningitis, pneumonia, Haemophilus influenzae bacteria, and rubella. Hilleman’s mission was to eradicate as many childhood diseases as he could, an objective at which he worked tirelessly. All one needs to do to be convinced of the importance of his work is to watch some old film footage of how children used to suffer terribly from these diseases back in the pre-vaccine era. His vaccines have saved millions of lives and continue to do so.
Hilleman’s unprecedented achievements in microbiology and vaccinology are recognized and honored by the International Papillomavirus Society (IPVS) and the EUROGIN scientific committee by the biennial Maurice R. Hilleman Award. This award from the HPV community acknowledges the work of scientists who have made outstanding contributions to HPV vaccine development, implementation and/or advocacy.
On July 22nd at IPVC 2020, IPVS and the EUROGIN scientific committee will present the 2020 Hilleman Award to a highly appropriate awardee, Dr. Laura Koutsky, MSPH, PhD, recognized internationally for her research on HPV and the diseases it causes. Beginning in the late 1980s, Dr. Koutsky focused on the epidemiology of HPV itself, the understanding of which was crucial for developing a vaccine to stop the virus. A decade later, Dr. Koutsky was the principal investigator in the first proof-of-principle HPV-16 VLP vaccine trials in the late 1990s- early 2000s. This trial was a fantastic success, clearly proving evidence of protection against infection. This paved the way for the development of HPV vaccines that protect against developing HPV-related cancers such as cervical cancer.
In conjunction with the 2020 Hilleman Award, we had the opportunity to interview Dr. Koutsky and hear more of the inspiring story behind her achievements. Click here to read the full interview