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Dr. Peter Hotez Wins Weill Cornell Medical College Alumni Award of Distinction

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Dr. Peter Hotez, M.D. ’87, Ph.D., dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine and professor of pediatrics and of molecular virology and microbiology at Baylor College of Medicine, has been awarded the Weill Cornell Medical College Alumni Association Award of Distinction.

The award, which was established in 1949, is presented each year to a Weill Cornell Medical College alumnus who has demonstrated outstanding achievement in research, education or patient care, and has brought acclaim to the institution. Dr. Hotez will receive the alumni award May 20 at Weill Cornell Medicine’s virtual commencement ceremony.

“It feels wonderful to be recognized by a medical college where I spent so many important years of my life,” Dr. Hotez said. “I have such fond memories of the institution, my professors and my peers.”

After graduating from Yale University, Dr. Hotez earned a doctorate in biochemistry from The Rockefeller University and his medical degree from Weill Cornell Medical College,as part of the Tri-Institutional M.D.-Ph.D. Program. He then conducted his residency at Massachusetts General Hospital.

For more than 40 years, Dr. Hotez has been dedicated to developing vaccines for neglected tropical diseases. “Vaccines against diseases of the poor that no one else cared about,” he said, adding that he was drawn to study at Weill Cornell Medicine because of its esteemed reputation in tropical medicine. Dr. Benjamin Kean, a professor of medicine at Weill Cornell Medicine and expert in tropical and rare diseases, served as one of Dr. Hotez’s mentors.   

“Given my very specific interest, I felt that Weill Cornell would provide me with the perfect education,” Dr. Hotez said.

As co-director of the Texas Children’s Center for Vaccine Development, Dr. Hotez works to develop new vaccines for parasitic and neglected tropical diseases such as hookworm infection, schistosomiasis, leishmaniasis and Chagas disease.

For the past decade, his research team has also been developing vaccines for SARS/MERS/SARS-2 coronavirus. Therefore, when scientists analyzed the genetic makeup of COVID-19 and sequenced the virus’s novel strain in January 2020, they were primed to start working on a vaccine.

“Our group has developed a recombinant protein COVID-19 vaccine that’s being accelerated in India. Through our Biological E industry partners, the vaccine is in phase 3 trials with plans to scale its production to make a billion doses,” Dr. Hotez said. “The hope is that they’ll be released with emergency authorization in India by the summer.”

Dr. Hotez is a recipient of numerous awards, including the Abraham Horwitz Award for Excellence in Leadership in Inter-American Health by the Pan American Health Organization of the World Health Organization, and the Award for Leadership in Advocacy for Vaccines in 2019 by the American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene. He is an elected member of the National Academy of Medicine and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

He has also written more than 600 original papers and is the author of four books, including the recently published “Preventing the Next Pandemic: Vaccine Diplomacy in a Time of Anti-Science” (Johns Hopkins University Press).

Dr. Henry Masur, M.D., ’72, the 2020 Weill Cornell Medical College Alumni Award of Distinction honoree, will also be recognized at the ceremony on May 20.

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