Newswise — University of Maryland School of Medicine Dean E. Albert Reece, MD, PhD, MBA, announced today that the School of Medicine (UM SOM) plans to establish a major new Institute for Global Health (IGH), bringing together decades of UM SOM research, treatment and vaccine development around the world, and expanding the School’s platform as the premier, leading center for global health research, treatment and prevention. The new Institute will focus on vaccine development and malaria research, and will house the UM SOM’s reconfigured Center for Vaccine Development (CVD) as well as a newly-formed Center for Malaria Research (CMR).

The new Institute will assemble some of the most prominent scientists and researchers in the fields of malaria research and vaccine development. Myron Levine, MD, DTPH, the Simon and Bessie Grollman Distinguished Professor and Founding Director of the CVD, will serve as a senior advisor to the IGH, and will become the UM SOM’s Associate Dean for Global Health, Vaccinology and Infectious Diseases; Christopher Plowe, MD, MPH, Professor of Medicine, of Molecular Microbiology and Immunology, and of Epidemiology and Public Health, and Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator at the UM SOM, will become the Founding Director of the IGH and the Director of the new CMR. Kathleen Neuzil, MD, MPH, newly-recruited physician-scientist, will become the Deputy Director of IGH and the Director of the CVD. Dr. Neuzil is now Professor of Medicine and Global Health at the University of Washington and is considered one of the world’s leaders in vaccinology. She directs worldwide vaccine access and delivery at PATH, an international nonprofit global health organization based in Seattle.

“This will truly be a landmark initiative for the School of Medicine,” said Dr. Reece, who is Vice President for Medical Affairs at the University of Maryland and John Z. and Akiko K. Bowers Distinguished Professor and Dean of the University of Maryland School of Medicine. “As a result of the tireless work of Dr. Levine, Dr. Plowe and others, we have continued to grow our global presence now in 35 countries around the world, including research and treatment facilities in Mali, Chile, Malawi and now emerging in Myanmar. This new Institute will enable us to leverage all of the tremendous work that has been done, and will have a powerful and lasting impact on global health.”

Dr. Reece added: “We are privileged to now have very strong and world-renowned new leadership that will carry the mantle forward. Dr. Plowe and Dr. Neuzil represent two of the top visionary scientists and thinkers in both malaria research and vaccine development today. Dr. Plowe has dedicated virtually his entire career to eradicating malaria around the world, working with researchers across the globe and training young scientists and clinical investigators, and building research capacity in countries where malaria is common. Dr. Neuzil is one of the most influential research scientists and advocates in the area of vaccine development and public policy in the world. It is quite fitting that Dr. Plowe and Dr. Neuzil will ‘stand on the shoulders’ of Dr. Levine to continue to expand the School of Medicine’s efforts that have improved the health of millions of citizens around the world.”

Building on the Legacy of CVD

According to the IGH organizational plan, the CVD, which was founded by Dr. Levine in 1974, will continue the critical work that has made it one of the most recognized entities for developing, testing and implementing vaccines in the world. Within the IGH, the CVD will continue to develop and test vaccines to prevent infectious diseases that disproportionately affect people living in the least developed countries. Dr. Levine will serve as a close advisor to the IGH, and will remain a professor of Medicine, Pediatrics, Epidemiology and Public Health, and Microbiology and Immunology at the UM SOM.

For the past 40 years, under Dr. Levine’s leadership, the CVD has conducted a wide range of research relating to the development of vaccines for a variety of diseases, including cholera, typhoid fever, paratyphoid fever, non-typhoidal Salmonella disease, shigellosis, Escherichia coli diarrhea, malaria, and other infectious diseases, including influenza. The CVD also developed new delivery systems, as well as public health and vaccine policy around the world, including Africa, Asia and Latin America. Most recently, Dr. Levine received worldwide attention for leading CVD’s direct involvement in the World Health Organization’s global consortium for accelerated testing of a new Ebola vaccine candidate both in CVD-Mali and CVD-Baltimore. Other members of the consortium included the Vaccine Research Center of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the Jenner Institute of Oxford University and the Wellcome Trust. Plans for a New Center on Malaria Research (CMR)

CMR will focus on the prevention and treatment of malaria, which infects 200 million people a year and kills more than half a million, mostly children in Africa. The Center will develop and deploy innovative tools for malaria treatment, prevention and surveillance. Working both in Baltimore and in the field in Africa and Asia, CMR scientists will lead clinical trials of drugs and vaccines, and will investigate a wide range of topics related to the disease, including drug resistance. CMR will also collaborate with local researchers to build research capacity in malaria-endemic countries.

CMR plans to begin testing of a new malaria vaccine in the West African country of Burkina Faso, with support from NIH. CMR is also launching an effort to develop a national malaria elimination campaign in Myanmar (formerly Burma), with funding from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the Open Society Foundation. This effort will include public, private, civilian and military partners.

Dr. Plowe, who has been studying malaria for the past 30 years, is currently the president of the American Society for Tropical Medicine and Hygiene (ASTMH). He has been on the CVD faculty since 1995, building a large multidisciplinary malaria research group with laboratories at the CVD and field sites in Africa and Asia. He has received a Doris Duke Distinguished Clinical Scientist Award, the Bailey K. Ashford Medal for distinguished work in tropical medicine from the ASTMH, and the American College of Physicians Award for Outstanding Work in Science as Related to Medicine.

New Leadership at CVD

Dr. Neuzil has extensive experience with vaccine research, policy and introduction. At PATH, she oversees a portfolio of activities focusing on the development, optimization and strategic deployment of vaccines in low resource countries. Since joining PATH in 2005, her work has focused on vaccines targeted against several diseases, including rotavirus, human papillomavirus infection (HPV), Japanese encephalitis, and influenza.

“I couldn’t be more excited to work with Chris Plowe and Mike Levine,” said Dr. Neuzil. “Together, we have a real opportunity to harness science and innovation to save lives and prevent diseases in some of the neediest populations around the globe.”

Dr. Neuzil held academic positions at the University of Washington and Vanderbilt University and is a Professor Global Health and Medicine at the University of Washington. In addition, she has served on national and international vaccine research and policy committees, including the Centers for Disease Control Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices, and the Pandemic Influenza Task Force for the Infectious Disease Society of America. Dr. Neuzil received her BS degree in zoology from the University of Maryland, her MD degree from Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, and her MPH degree from Vanderbilt University. She received her post-doctoral raining in internal medicine and infectious diseases at Vanderbilt University. She will join the UM SOM on July 1, 2015 and will also serve as deputy director of IGH and Director of the CVD. Until her arrival, Dr. Plowe is serving as Interim Director of the CVD.

“We are exceptionally fortunate to have recruited Kathy Neuzil to lead the CVD,” said Dr. Plowe. “Mike Levine's are big shoes to fill, but Dr. Neuzil is absolutely the right person to step into this major role. She is internationally renowned for leading large trials of influenza and other vaccines, and for being a prominent advocate of access to live-saving vaccines, and an architect of global policy on vaccines.”

Trans-Disciplinary Research in Human Virology, Genomics, Vaccine Development and Basic and Translational Science

Dean Reece noted that one of the primary goals for IGH is to develop a collaborative and integrated synergy with all vaccine work and related basic, translational and clinical research in the School of Medicine by building upon each program’s individual strengths in a coordinated and collaborative manner.

IGH will also collaborate with scientists from the University of Maryland, Baltimore, and the University of Maryland College Park (UMCP). In Malawi, Mali and Myanmar, CVD investigators will continue to collaborate on projects with colleagues from other UM SOM Institutes, the UMCP Department of Geographical Sciences and the UMCP Center for Bioinformatics and Computational Biology.

Once established, IGH will join other international Institutes at the UM SOM: the Institute for Human Virology (IHV), under the direction of Robert Gallo, MD, the Homer & Martha Gudelsky Distinguished Professor in Medicine; and the Institute for Genome Sciences (IGS) under the direction of Claire Fraser, PhD, Professor of Medicine, Microbiology and Immunology. The IHV, established in 1996, is the first center to combine the disciplines of basic science, epidemiology and clinical research in a concerted effort to speed the discovery of diagnostics and therapeutics for a wide variety of chronic and deadly viral and immune disorders – most notably HIV, the cause of AIDS. The IGS, founded in 2007, has helped revolutionize genomic discoveries in medicine, agriculture, environmental science, biodefense and the new field of microbial forensics. By applying genomic tools to clinical research, IGS investigators are creating new dynamics for understanding individual differences in our susceptibility to disease, for understanding the role our bodies' microorganisms play in health and disease, and for exploring personalized therapeutics. IHV and CVD scientists are already working together on the interaction between HIV and malaria in Africa, and IGS and CVD investigators collaborate on malaria genomics research that has influenced World Health Organization recommendations on malaria elimination strategies in Asia. CVD and IGS investigators also collaborate on basic research towards development of a vaccine to prevent disease caused by the protozoan Cryptosporidium, an important pathogen associated with severe diarrheal illness, growth faltering and mortality in infants and young children in developing countries.

“Creation of this new Institute is the perfect way to build on the legacy of Mike Levine,” said Dr. Plowe. “Dr. Levine and the CVD, along with the Institute of Human Virology, the Institute of Genome Science and several other research centers, programs and groups on campus, have been pioneers in global health, and IGH will allow us to build and expand that powerful legacy of leading high-quality research to reduce suffering around the world.”

About the University of Maryland School of Medicine

The University of Maryland School of Medicine was chartered in 1807 and is the first public medical school in the United States, and continues today as an innovative leader in accelerating innovation and discovery in medicine. The School of Medicine is the founding school of the University of Maryland and is an integral part of the 11-campus University System of Maryland. Located on the University of Maryland’s Baltimore campus, the School of Medicine works closely with the University of Maryland Medical Center and Medical System to provide a research-intensive, academic and clinically based education. With 43 academic departments, centers and institutes and a faculty of more than 3,000 physicians and research scientists plus more than $400 million in extramural funding, the School is regarded as one of the leading biomedical research institutions in the U.S., and is ranked among the top-tier of medical schools. The School’s leadership is highlighted by exceptional faculty and programs in cancer, brain science, surgery and transplantation, trauma and emergency medicine, vaccine development and human genomics, among other centers of excellence. The School is not only concerned with the health of the citizens of Maryland and the nation, but also has a global presence, with research and treatment facilities in more than 35 countries around the world.