Hilary Koprowski, M.D.
Thomas Jefferson University

2004 recipient of the
ISNV Pioneer in NeuroVirology Award

The ISNV periodically recognizes individual achievement in the field of neurovirology through its Pioneer in NeuroVirology Award. This year, the ISNV honors Dr. Hilary Koprowski for his accomplishments and contributions to the field of neurovirology, for he truly is a pioneer. This year's Pioneer in NeuroVirology Award was presented at the 6th International Symposium on NeuroVirology.

The International Society for NeuroVirology has honored Dr. Hilary Koprowski with the Pioneer in NeuroVirology Award for his numerous and outstanding contributions to the field during a career that has spanned more than sixty years. Dr. Koprowski is the fifth researcher to receive this award and is preceded by an equally distinguished list of recipients.

Dr. Koprowski's interest in neurovirology began in 1941 during a postdoctoral fellowship at the Yellow Fever Laboratories of the Rockefeller Foundation in Brazil. At that time, Dr. Koprowski published a paper with E.H. Lennette on laboratory infections of man with Venezuelan Equine Encephalitis Virus (VEEV). Over the next several years, he devoted his research to studying the pathogenicity of VEEV and the antigenic relationships between West Nile Virus, Japanese B Encephalitis, and St. Louis Encephalitis.

In 1946, while at Lederle Laboratories of American Cyanamid Company in Pearl River, New York, he and Lennette published a paper on interference between viruses in tissue culture, in which they demonstrated that virus-free supernatants from cultures growing West Nile Virus inhibited the growth of other viruses. This study demonstrated, for the first time, the existence of interferon.

Dr. Koprowski published his first paper on rabies virus in 1948. This virus would become an enduring research interest in his career. Throughout the next several decades, his most notable contributions to the study of rabies virus would include: (i) the establishment of animal models (canine and mouse) of post-vaccination encephalitis; (ii) the collaborative development of a new rabies vaccine that was more effective and less painful than the traditional Pasteur technique; (iii) the pioneering development of monoclonal antibodies against a viral pathogen; and (iv) the study of the role of anti-rabies antibodies in post-exposure treatments.

While at Lederle Laboratories, Dr. Koprowski began working on one of his most significant scientific contributions: the development of a live oral vaccine for poliomyelitis. By 1950, his oral polio vaccine became the first such vaccine to be used in clinical trials within a population of 20 children. Over the next few years, he continued his work on the oral polio vaccine and by 1957 the vaccine was being used in mass trials in the Belgian Congo.

In addition to his significant work on rabies and polio, Dr. Koprowski has an impressive body of work on Borna disease virus (BDV), including the study of the comparative pathogenicity of BDV and rabies in rats and mice, and the induction of nitric oxide in the brain after infection with BDV in rats and mice.
Dr. Koprowski's work has also included combined research on cancer and viruses. This work pioneered the development and use of monoclonal antibodies used for the detection of cancer antigens and in cancer immunotherapy.

Hilary Koprowski received his M.D. from the University of Warsaw in 1939. Following several fellowships, he assumed the position of Assistant Director of the Section of Viral and Rickettsial Research at Lederle Laboratories of American Cyanamid Company in Pearl River, NY. In 1957, he became the Director of the respected Wistar Institute of Anatomy and Biology, an independent biomedical research institute located in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and held that position until 1991. He is credited with reviving the struggling institute and turning it into a leading center for research on cancer and viral diseases. He has trained numerous outstanding and respected scientists throughout his career. He has authored more than 850 scientific papers, holds memberships in various scientific societies and organizations, including the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the National Academy of Sciences. He has received honorary degrees from various universities throughout the world. In 1992, he became the Director of the Center of Neurovirology and Biotechnology Foundation Laboratories at Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia, a position he still holds today.

Born in Warsaw, Poland, Hilary Koprowski excelled in both science and music. He began playing piano at the age of five and entered the Warsaw Conservatory of Music at the age of twelve. After receiving a degree in piano from the Conservatory, he received his M.D. from the University of Warsaw in 1939. After spending some time working in a laboratory in Dublin, Dr. Koprowski decided on a career as a researcher. Although he devoted his career to biomedical research, his passion for music never waned. Dr. Koprowski possesses a serious devotion to music and is an accomplished composer.

We are honored to recognize Dr. Hilary Koprowski's accomplishments and contributions as a Pioneer in NeuroVirology.

Return to the Pioneer in NeuroVirology Award page.