Pfizer Vaccine Trailblazer Named to Exclusive National Academy of Medicine

Pfizer_Tayfun Coskun/Anadolu Agency via Getty

Tayfun Coskun/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

The National Academy of Medicine tapped 100 new members to its prestigious organization that represents some of the brightest minds in health and medicines. Among the new members is a trailblazer in the development of multiple vaccines, including one for COVID-19.

This year’s membership included Kathrin U. Jansen, senior vice president and head of vaccine research and development at Pfizer. Throughout her tenure at Pfizer, Jansen has played a key role in the development of three revolutionary vaccines, including human papillomavirus Gardasil and the company’s groundbreaking COVID-19 vaccine, which has been administered across the United States since first gaining Emergency Use Authorization and later full approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, as well as across the globe.

At Pfizer, Jansen leads the company’s vaccines research and development organization. She oversees the entire process, from discovery through registration and post-marketing commitments. She also led the partnership of Pfizer and BioNTech to develop the COVID-19 vaccine.

In addition to her guidance for the COVID-19 vaccine and the development of Gardasil, Jansen led the advancement of Prev(e)nar13, a vaccine developed to prevent pneumococcal diseases. She also oversaw the licensure of Trumenba, the first vaccine licensed in the United States to prevent invasive disease caused by Neisseria meningitidis serogroup B.

Jansen is also overseeing a clinical vaccine portfolio that includes experimental inoculations designed to prevent Streptococcus pneumoniae, Clostridioides difficile, Respiratory syncytial virus, Group B streptococcus, and Lyme disease.

Jansen wasn’t the only industry veteran to be tapped for membership in the National Academy of Medicine. Lennart Mucke, director of the Gladstone Institute of Neurological Disease, was also admitted into the membership ranks. 

Mucke, who is also the Joseph B. Martin Distinguished Professor of Neuroscience in the neurology department at the University of California, San Francisco, was selected for his role in Alzheimer’s research. Specifically, the Academy said Mucke was chosen for his “leading role in defining molecular and pathophysiological mechanisms by which Alzheimer’s disease causes synaptic failure, neural network dysfunctions, and cognitive decline.”

This morning, Mucke expressed his gratitude for his selection. In a brief statement, he said his selection was due to the contributions made by his colleagues, both current and past. He also shares the honor of being named to the organization. 

As an Alzheimer’s researcher, Mucke has paved the way for a greater understanding of this devastating neurological disease. His research has helped aim the attention on molecular and cellular processes concerning brain functions. 

Mucke’s discoveries include the demonstration that key proteins implicated in Alzheimer’s disease, including amyloid-beta, apolipoprotein E4 (apoE4), and tau, can all cause brain dysfunctions independent of plaques and tangles, which are pathological hallmarks of the disease, Gladstone said this morning.

Additionally, Mucke’s research led to the discovery that tau regulates the activity of neurons. His research is guiding some Alzheimer’s-focused companies as they attempt to develop a novel therapeutic for this disease. 

Mucke is also leading efforts at Gladstone to address some of the challenges the industry has faced in developing therapeutics for Alzheimer’s. He is also investigating how multiple genetic and non-genetic factors come together to promote the disease. This multipronged approach is helping to diversify the drug development portfolio for Alzheimer’s disease. 

“The path toward generating therapeutics that are efficacious and safe when given to millions of people for many years is always challenging,” Mucke said in a statement. “This process is made even more difficult in the case of Alzheimer’s disease because it affects the elderly, who often suffer from other aging-related conditions requiring treatments that might adversely interact with novel therapeutics for Alzheimer’s.”

Other notable new members to the National Academy of Medicine include William C. Hahn, executive vice president and chief operating officer at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. Hahn was selected for fundamental contributions in understanding cancer initiation, maintenance, and progression. 

Rochelle Paul Walensky, director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, was also selected. Walensky, who has been guiding the national response to COVID-19 under the Biden administration, was chosen for her work that motivated changes to HIV and COVID-19 guidelines, as well as her influence on public health practice. Walensky also provided “rigorous evidence for decisions by the U.S. Congress, the World Health Organization, and Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS,” the National Academy of Medicine said in its announcement. 

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