Dr. Maurice Hilleman - an exceptional figure in vaccine development

Lucerne, 20 April 2018 - One of the most important scientists in the history of modern medicine for vaccines: Dr. Maurice Hilleman (1919 - 2005). In his almost 30 years of work at MSD (1956 - 1984), Dr. Maurice Hilleman was of decisive importance in developing over forty vaccines for human and animal medicine. His passionate research and humanistic approach are still the inspiration for medical scientists worldwide today. We use this year’s World Immunization Week, launched by the WHO to commemorate Dr. Maurice Hilleman, probably the most influential public health figure of the 20th century, considering that his work has helped save millions of lives.1

When Dr. Maurice Hilleman took the job as Director of Virus and Cell Biology Research at the Merck Institute for Therapeutic Research in West Point, Pennsylvania, in 1956, he could not have foreseen that he would one day be one of the most important scientists in the history of modern medicine in the area of vaccines. Until then, Jonas Salk and Albert Sabin had the reputation as the scientists who had made groundbreaking achievements in the fight against viral diseases. Maurice's great passion for science had already, however, become apparent during his childhood to his brother, who laid the foundation for his university education.2

Pic 1 and 2: Dr. Maurice Hilleman (1919 - 2005), one of the most important scientists in the history of modern vaccine medicine. During his nearly 30 year career at MSD he developed more than 40 vaccines for humans and animals.

Maurice Hilleman grew up on a farm in Montana. The hard life was a valuable basis for his later professional life. "Growing up on a farm means that you learn a lot of practical things," he emphasized later. After his studies at the University of Chicago with a doctoral degree in Microbiology and Chemistry, he chose to enter the pharmaceutical industry instead of taking up an academic career - a real stroke of luck for the world's health, as would later become obvious!

In his almost 30 years of work at MSD (1956 - 1984), Dr. Maurice Hilleman was of decisive importance in developing over forty vaccines for human and animal medicine. His passionate research and humanistic approach are still the inspiration for medical scientists worldwide today. More information can be found in an impressive video portrait

The vaccine against mumps Mumpsvax (mumps virus vaccine, live), developed in 1967, which he took from a cell culture of his daughter Jeryl Lynn (left in the picture), who had contracted mumps, is legendary. One night in 1956, Maurice Hilleman took the necessary materials from the laboratory to take cell cultures at home, which he then froze and isolated in the laboratory. Some years later, shortly before the first vaccine against this contagious viral infection was licensed, his younger daughter Kirsten has been vaccinated with it. The famous photo shows both his daughters; the younger one had just received the mumps vaccine, developed from the cell cultures of her sister.

Pic. 3: Jeryl Lynn Hilleman with her sister, Kirsten, as a doctor gave her the mumps vaccine developed by their father.

Memories and Honours

Anthony S.Fauci, M.D., Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease, National Institutes of Health in the USA said among other things about Maurice Hilleman: "If I had to name a person who has done more for the benefit of human health, with less recognition than anyone else, it would be Maurice Hilleman. Maurice should be recognized as the most successful vaccinologist in history."1

Maurice Hilleman saw very complex things with astonishing clarity, emphasized David M. Morens, Senior Advisor of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. Unlike many scientists who understand the leaf on the tree, he understood the whole forest.2

In 1988, Dr. Maurice Hilleman was awarded the National Medal of Science by President Ronald Reagan and in 1997, he received the Albert B. Sabin Gold Medal Award.3

MSD - WELLCOME TRUST: Hilleman Laboratories

Hilleman Laboratories, founded in memory of Maurice Hilleman, have been working since 2009 to manufacture effective drugs at low prices for regions of the world with limited health resources, and to close gaps in supply gaps.4

References

World Immunization Week 24. – 30. April 2018

World Immunization Week – launched by the WHO – aims to highlight the collective action needed to ensure that every person is protected from vaccine-preventable diseases.

This year’s theme: “Protected Together, #VaccinesWork”, encourages people at every level – from donors to the general public – to go further in their efforts to increase immunization coverage for the greater good.

MSD supports this WHO call worldwide.

About MSD

MSD is a leading global biopharmaceutical company which has been engaged in life science research for more than a century, developing drugs and vaccines for the most challenging diseases worldwide. MSD is a registered trademark of Merck & Co., Inc., Kenilworth, New Jersey, USA. With our prescription drugs, vaccines, biological therapies, and veterinary products, we offer innovative health solutions in over 140 countries. With wide-ranging programs and partnerships, we are also committed to achieving improved access to healthcare. Today MSD is still at the forefront of research for the prevention and treatment of diseases which threaten people and society around the world, including cancer, cardiovascular diseases, new animal diseases, Alzheimer’s, and infectious diseases, including HIV and Ebola. For more information visit www.msd.com and follow us on Twitter.

MSD Human Medicine Switzerland

Switzerland is a key location for the company, which has 600 employees working there in national and international functions. The Human Medicine division in Switzerland is responsible for the distribution of prescription drugs and biopharmaceuticals in the areas of oncology, diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, infectious diseases (including anti-fungal, antibiotic resistance, HIV/Aids, and hepatitis C), immunology, women’s health as well as vaccines for children, young people, and adults.

MSD is active in clinical research in Switzerland, where the company provides medicines for clinical trials worldwide. Additionally, MSD is committed to raising health literacy and promoting the healthcare economy on a local level. The firm is also active in Lucerne, where the MSD headquarters are located. In 2018 the company received certification as a “Top Employer” in Switzerland for the sixth year in succession, as well as the “Top Employer Europe” award for the third time.

More information is available at: www.msd.ch

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MSD Merck Sharp & Dohme AG
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media.switzerland@merck.com

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VACC-1254933-0000, April 2018