Former Wistar Institute Director Hilary Koprowski, M.D., Wins 2007 Sabin Gold Medal

Former Wistar Institute Director Hilary Koprowski, M.D., Wins 2007 Sabin Gold Medal

April 9, 2007

(WASHINGTON, April 10, 2007 – Business Wire) – Hilary Koprowski, M.D., one of the world’s outstanding biomedical researchers over the last half-century, is the 2007 winner of the Sabin Gold Medal, the Sabin Vaccine Institute announced. Dr. Koprowski was the director of The Wistar Institute from 1957 to 1991 and is today an emeritus professor and board member at Wistar.

Dr. Koprowski is the 15th recipient of the Sabin Gold Medal, which is awarded annually to recognize the extraordinary accomplishments of those who make vaccine discoveries or employ vaccines to combat vaccine-preventable diseases. He will be presented the award by Stanley Prusiner, M.D., winner of the 1997 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine. The ceremony will take place May 1, 2007, in Baltimore, MD, in conjunction with the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases Annual Conference on Vaccine Research.

“Any serious discussion of the giants of 20th century biomedical research must include Hilary Koprowski as one of the most prominent,” said Dr. H.R. Shepherd, Sabin’s Founding Chairman.

“The scope of his achievements is simply remarkable, ranging from polio to rabies and to monoclonal antibodies that are a key to effective cancer immunotherapy,” noted Peter Hotez, M.D., Ph.D., Sabin’s President.

In winning the Sabin Gold Medal, Dr. Koprowski joins former colleague and fellow Wistar emeritus professor Stanley A. Plotkin, M.D., who was honored with the award in 2002. Dr. Plotkin, best known as the developer of the rubella vaccine responsible for eradicating that disease in the U.S., was also a co-developer of a vaccine against rotavirus approved for use in 2006.

Dr. Koprowski’s groundbreaking work in polio and rabies greatly advanced vaccine research. In the late 1940s, his efforts resulted in production of the first oral polio vaccine that was used extensively to immunize people on four continents. In the 1970s, his passionate interest in rabies led him to develop a new tissue culture-based vaccine that is more effective and less painful than the traditional Pasteur technique.

He was a pioneer in the development of monoclonal antibodies, which are used to detect cancer antigens and in cancer immunotherapy. And he has successfully used plants to produce vaccines and antibodies. Dr. Koprowski and his associates developed the first functional monoclonal antibody against colorectal cancer antigen and rabies. The monoclonal antibody recognizing antigen of colorectal cancer is used throughout the world for diagnosis of pancreatic cancer by detection of the antigen in blood.

A native of Warsaw, Poland, Dr. Koprowski initially received a degree in piano from the Warsaw Conservatory. He then received his M.D. from the University of Warsaw in 1939, and in 1940 graduated from the National Academy of Santa Cecilia in Rome, a world-renowned institute for the study of music.

He moved to Brazil and then soon relocated to the United States, where he eventually became the Director of the Wistar Institute, of Philadelphia, in 1957 and led it for 35 years. At Wistar he recruited top biologists from throughout the world and is credited with a major revival of the institute.

“Dr. Koprowski, with his serious life-long devotion both to scientific research and to music composition, is truly a renaissance man,” said Maj. Gen. Philip K. Russell, M.D. (USA Ret.), who chairs the Sabin Gold Medal Advisory Committee.

Dr. Koprowski is the author of more than 850 scientific papers and is a member of many of the world’s most prestigious scientific societies. He has also received honorary degrees from numerous universities, and is the recipient of many honors, including the Philadelphia Award, the Scott Award, and the French Legion of Honor. Dr. Koprowski is also a member of the National Academy of Sciences and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. He was both a Fulbright Scholar and a Rockefeller University Fellow. He has been a continuous grantee of the National Institutes of Health for more than 50 years.

Currently, Dr. Koprowski is Director of The Biotechnology Foundation Laboratories, as well as the Center for Neurovirology, at Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia. He has been married to Dr. Irena Koproswka for 69 years.

The event honoring Dr. Koprowski will be held May 1st at the Baltimore Marriott Waterfront Hotel. It will begin with a 5 p.m. reception, followed by the presentation ceremony at 6 p.m. This event is open to the public.

The Sabin Gold Medal is awarded by the Sabin Vaccine Institute to recognize individuals who personify exemplary contributions to disease prevention through development or use of vaccines. At the outset of the annual selection process 300 members of the scientific community are canvassed, particularly those whose specialization is in vaccinology or immunology. They submit nominations to the Sabin Gold Medal Advisory Committee, composed of previous recipients and chaired by Maj. Gen. Philip K. Russell, MD (USA Ret.), who is the seventh recipient of the honor.

The list of previous Sabin Gold Medal recipients includes some of the foremost contributors to the modern era of public health, including D.A. Henderson, M.D., and Ciro de Quadros, M.D., M.P.H.; and vaccine developers such as Samuel Katz, M.D., Stanley A. Plotkin, M.D., John Robbins, M.D., the late Maurice R. Hilleman, Ph.D., D.Sc., and Albert Z. Kapikian, M.D. Other notable recipients include William S. Jordan, Jr., M.D., Myron M. Levine, M.D., D.T.P.H., Allen C. Steere, M.D., the late Joseph L. Melnick, Ph.D., and Robert M. Chanock, M.D. With the singular achievements of the Sabin Gold Medal recipients to date, the prestige of this award continues to grow and the wealth of scientific benefit to society it represents remains extraordinary.

The Sabin Vaccine Institute is dedicated to carrying on the vision and work of one of the preeminent figures in the history of medicine, Dr. Albert B. Sabin. Best known as the developer of the oral live virus polio vaccine, Dr. Sabin’s life was not only an unending quest for scientific excellence in the service of humanity, but also a tireless campaign against poverty and ignorance. Devoted to infectious and tropical disease control, the Institute since 2000 increasingly has focused on sponsoring and conducting research and development for vaccines to prevent neglected tropical diseases, a group of disabling and poverty-promoting conditions in developing countries. The Institute has gained international recognition for its commitment to combat these diseases of poverty through the use of vaccines as well as preventive chemotherapy. Sabin is a Washington, DC-based 501c(3) non-profit medical research and advocacy organization. It works in collaboration with its academic partner and geographic neighbor, The George Washington University.

The Wistar Institute is an international leader in biomedical research, with special expertise in cancer research and vaccine development. Founded in 1892 as the first independent nonprofit biomedical research institute in the country, Wistar has long held the prestigious Cancer Center designation from the National Cancer Institute. Discoveries at Wistar have led to the creation of the rubella vaccine that eradicated the disease in the U.S., rabies vaccines used worldwide, and a new rotavirus vaccine approved in 2006. Wistar scientists have also identified many cancer genes and developed monoclonal antibodies and other important research tools. Today, Wistar is home to eminent melanoma researchers and pioneering scientists working on experimental vaccines against flu, HIV, and other diseases. The Institute works actively to transfer its inventions to the commercial sector to ensure that research advances move from the laboratory to the clinic as quickly as possible. The Wistar Institute: Today’s Discoveries – Tomorrow’s Cures. On the web at