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2018 Award for Distinguished Research in the Biomedical Sciences

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Stanley A. Plotkin, MD, Professor Emeritus of Pediatrics, Raymond and Ruth Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania

Most Americans born in the United States after 1969 likely carry the lasting legacy of Stanley A. Plotkin, MD: immunity from rubella. His efforts to develop safe, reliable protection against so-called German measles resulted in a widely used vaccine that has been part of routine childhood immunizations ever since.

Currently an emeritus professor at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania (PSOM), Dr. Plotkin has had a lengthy career searching for and developing safe and effective vaccines to fight common childhood diseases. Dr. Plotkin’s pioneering work in immunology, microbiology, and virology over six decades has established him as “dean of the world’s contemporary vaccinologists,” says William N. Kelley, MD, professor of medicine at PSOM.

Born and raised in New York City by immigrant parents, Dr. Plotkin entered the Bronx High School of Science at age 13, where he read Sinclair Lewis’s Arrowsmith and Paul DeKruif’s biography Microbe Hunters. The books sparked Dr. Plotkin’s interest in becoming a physician-scientist. Inquisitive and methodical, he focused on infectious diseases and served three years in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Epidemic Intelligence Service, during which time he worked at the Wistar Institute of Anatomy and Biology in Philadelphia and conducted field work in the Belgian Congo.

After leaving the CDC, Dr. Plotkin became head of Infectious Diseases at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) and a researcher and professor of virology at Wistar and PSOM, where he developed the rubella vaccine and led a team that developed a rotavirus vaccine. His RA 27/3 rubella vaccine, now used exclusively around the world, effectively eradicated the disease in the Western Hemisphere and most of Europe.

Dr. Plotkin was also integral to the development of vaccines for polio, rabies, and varicella, and he continues to work on vaccines for Lyme disease and cytomegalovirus (CMV). A prolific author, Dr. Plotkin has penned more than 800 publications and four books. His book Vaccines, which Dr. Kelley says is considered “the bible for the field,” is currently in its seventh edition.

For his contributions to improving the health of children worldwide, Dr. Plotkin has earned numerous honors, including the Albert B. Sabin Gold Medal Award, the Maxwell Finland Award for Scientific Achievement by the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases, the Maurice Hilleman Award in Vaccinology by the American Society of Microbiology, the Sheikh Hamdan Bin Rashid Al Maktoum Award for Medical Sciences, and the French Legion of Honor. He is an elected member of the National Academy of Medicine, the French National Academy of Medicine, and the French National Academy of Pharmacy.

Dr. Plotkin attended New York University and earned his MD from the State University of New York, Downstate Medical Center College of Medicine. He completed a rotating internship at Cleveland Metropolitan General Hospital and was a pediatrics resident at CHOP and the Hospital for Sick Children in London.

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