Saturday,23 February, 2019
Current issue | Issue 1399, (28 June - 4 July 2018)
Saturday,23 February, 2019
Issue 1399, (28 June - 4 July 2018)

Ahram Weekly

Obituary: Adel Mahmoud (1941-2018)

Adel Mahmoud
Adel Mahmoud

An innovator in the world of vaccines

Infectious-disease expert Adel Mahmoud died of a brain haemorrhage on 11 June at Mount Sinai St Luke’s Hospital in Manhattan. He was 76.

An innovator in the world of vaccines, Mahmoud was known for his focus on saving lives and his consistent empathy. After creating better and more widely available vaccines with Merck Vaccines and Case Western Reserve University’s department of medicine, he joined the Princeton University as a professor, brightening the days of colleagues and students alike, according to the Princetonian Daily.

Mahmoud is best known for developing vaccines for rota virus and HPV, one of the main causes of cervical cancer. Dr Julie L Gerberding, an executive vice president at Merck & Co, and former head of the Federal Centre for Disease Control and Prevention, told The New York Times that the rota virus and HPV vaccines were contentious and might never have reached the market without Mahmoud’s determination.

Globally, cervical cancer and rota virus infections kill hundreds of thousands of women and children every year.

The death of the Egyptian-American professor was only highlighted in local media after Microsoft founder Bill Gates mourned the loss of Mahmoud on 21 June on his Twitter account.

“Earlier this month, the world lost one of the greatest vaccine creators of our time. Dr Adel Mahmoud saved the lives of countless children,” wrote Gates.

His tweet went viral on social media platforms and led many Egyptians and scientists to follow suit in paying their own tributes. Minister of Immigration Nabila Makram and Minister of Higher Education Khaled Abdel Ghaffar released statements mourning his death on Friday.

Mahmoud was born in Cairo in August 1941, the eldest of three children. When Mahmoud was 10 he was sent to a pharmacy to get his sick father penicillin only to return home to find his father dead.

“I often wondered if his strength as a leader and his clear vision originated from being forced into those roles at an early age,” his wife Dr Sally Hodder was quoted as saying in the New York Times. As the oldest son, Mhmoud became the head of the family following the death of his father.

Mahmoud studied medicine at Cairo University and received his MD in 1963. In 1968 he went to Britain where he earned a PhD from London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine in 1971. Two years later he moved to the United States, initially conducting research as a postdoctoral fellow at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland. After some years as an instructor and professor at Case Western Reserve he became the chief of the university’s division of geographic medicine in 1977, and served as chairman of the Department of Medicine from 1987 to 1998.

He met Hodder, an infectious-disease specialist, at the university in 1976. They married in 1993.

Mahmoud taught at Case Western for 26 years before being recruited by Merck Vaccines where he served as president from 1998 to 2006. During his helm at Merck he led the development of vaccines that brought major advances in public health, including treatments for severe gastroenteritis, human papilloma virus, shingles, and a single measles-mumps-rubella-varicella vaccine. As of 2017 more than 500 million doses of the four vaccines had been distributed around the globe.

He left Merck in 2006 and began teaching at Princeton University in 2007.

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