Two University of Rochester Researchers to Receive Prestigious Lasker Awards

October 01, 1996

Two well-known researchers of the University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry -- David H. Smith, M.D. and Porter W. Anderson, Ph.D. -- will share a prestigious Albert Lasker Award for their pioneering work in the development of a vaccine against Hemophilus influenzae type b (Hib), the bacterium that causes bacterial meningitis.

To be presented on October 4 in New York by the Albert and Mary Lasker Foundation, the prestigious award is often a precursor of further honors: 54 Lasker Award winners had subsequently received Nobel Prizes.

Dr. Smith and Dr. Anderson, both emeritus professors of pediatrics, developed the vaccine in the mid-1980s. Much of that work was done while they were Rochester faculty members. Dr. Smith joined the Rochester faculty in 1976 as chair of the Department of Pediatrics and served in that capacity until 1983. Dr. Anderson joined the Rochester pediatrics faculty in 1977 and was on the faculty until 1994.

Before the vaccine was developed, there were nearly 20,000 cases of childhood meningitis in the United States each year caused by the Hib bacterium. About 10 percent of these children died, and nearly a third of those who survived did so with permanent after effects such as deafness and mental retardation. Since the vaccine was introduced, bacterial meningitis has been reduced by about 98 percent.

"Dr. Smith's and Dr. Anderson's contributions to the improvement of children's health in Rochester and throughout the world are truly remarkable," said Elizabeth R. McAnarney, M.D., chair of the Department of Pediatrics. "Their work serves as a superb model of the integration of creative science and clinical practice."

Drs. Smith and Anderson will share the award with Dr. John B. Robbins and Dr. Rachel Schneerson of the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development in Bethesda, Maryland.

Dr. Smith received his medical degree from the University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry in 1958. Dr. Anderson received his doctorate from Harvard University in 1967.

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