Institute of Medicine taps SMHS global health professor

A GW Medical Center professor – renowned for his efforts to develop vaccines against tropical diseases – was elected to the Institute of Medicine of the National Academies, the University announced Monday.

The prestigious group offered membership to Peter Hotez, a global health professor and chair of the department of microbiology, immunology and tropical medicine, for his two patented hookworm vaccines and “his demonstrated interest, concern and involvement with problems and critical issues that affect the health of the public,” according to a news release.

The news comes only a month after Hotez was a featured speaker at his third Clinton Global Initiative conference.

“The University has been a big supporter in his research efforts,” said John “Skip” Williams, University provost and vice president for health affairs. “They recognized his talent early and made him a Walter G. Ross professor so he would get money for his research.”

Hotez has studied many of the world’s most dangerous tropical diseases, but he focuses on hookworm – a disease that affects 740 million people in some of the poorest countries worldwide, according to the World Health Organization.

He began his career at GW in 2000 when he founded the department of microbiology, immunology and tropical diseases at SMHS. He also serves as the director of the Human Hookworm Vaccine Initiative, a partnership between GW and the Sabin Vaccine Institute.

In 2006, Hotez was invited to be on a panel at the Clinton Global Initiatives conference to examine the issue of tropical diseases. At the conference, he and other members of the medical and philanthropic communities pledged to aid those struggling with tropical diseases and helped found the Global Network, a project to bring medical care to the world’s poor struggling with tropical diseases.

“Vaccine development is a 15-year project,” Hotez said. “We can be helping these people now even without a vaccine by providing them with basic medical assistance.”

This year, Hotez returned to the Clinton Global Initiatives conference to give a speech about the progress of the organization and the work of the Global Network in combating neglected tropical diseases.

Maria Bottazzi, the vice chair of his department at the medical school, said Hotez deserves the accolades he has received.

“Certainly it is not easy to be invited to speak alongside with former President Clinton,” Bottazzi said. “And his appointment as a member to the Institute of Medicine demonstrates his success.”

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