March 25, 2014 -- W. Ian Lipkin, MD, John Snow Professor of Epidemiology at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health and director of the school’s Center for Infection and Immunity, was named recipient of Villanova University’s 2014 Mendel Medal. Dr. Lipkin was selected for the honor in recognition of his groundbreaking work in the development of genetic methods for microbial surveillance and discovery.
First awarded in 1929, Villanova’s Mendel Medal is given to outstanding contemporary scientists in recognition of their scientific accomplishments. The medal honors 19th century Augustinian friar and scientist Gregor Johann Mendel, best known as “the father of modern genetics.” Previous medalists have been Nobel Laureates, Lasker and MacArthur awardees, and recipients of the National Medal of Science including Michael DeBakey, Paul Farmer, Francis Collins, Peter Doherty, Phillip Sharp, Janet Rowley, and Maxine Singer.
Dr. Lipkin, a professor of Neurology and Pathology at Columbia, also serves as director of the National Institute of Health (NIH) Center for Research in Diagnostics and Discovery. Additionally, he is a member of the Advisory Committee to the director of the National Institutes of Health, scientific director of the Joint Research Laboratory for Pathogen Discovery Laboratory in the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention and Principal Investigator of the Autism Birth Cohort, a 114,000 prospective birth cohort in Norway.
Named “the world’s most celebrated virus hunter” by Discover Magazine, Dr. Lipkin’s scientific contributions include the first use of genetic methods to identify an infectious agent, discovery of the implication of West Nile virus as the cause of encephalitis in North America in 1999, invention of MassTag PCR and the first panmicrobial microarray, first use of deep sequencing in pathogen discovery, molecular characterization of more than 500 viruses, establishment of molecular criteria for proof of causation and insights into the role of infection and immunity in chronic disorders including chronic fatigue syndrome and autism. Recently, he was the sole external investigator invited by the Ministry of Health in Saudi Arabia to assist in identifying reservoirs and vectors for transmission of the MERS coronavirus.
Professor Lipkin will deliver the 2014 Mendel Medal Lecture "Of Microbes and Man: A Delicate Balance" in October.