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IN MEMORIAM: UM School of Medicine Biomedical Research Pioneer and Pharmacology Professor, Laure Aurelian, PhD

June 08, 2021

The Department of Pharmacology at the University of Maryland School of Medicine (UMSOM) is saddened to announce the passing of Laure Aurelian, PhD, Professor Emerita of Pharmacology. She was the first woman to receive a PhD from the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and was a pioneer who opened doors for many women to pursue research careers in biomedical science. She was also among the first women to receive independent funding from the National Institutes of Health, receiving her first R01 award in 1970.

For decades, Laure was an innovative virology researcher and a respected leader in investigating Herpes. She was an early innovator in the use of engineered viruses for gene therapy and cancer treatment with oncolytic viruses.  Laure was also a committed mentor who retired from the Department of Pharmacology in 2018 after spending 35 years at UMSOM.

Margaret “Peg” McCarthy, PhD“Dr. Aurelian brought passion and commitment to everything she did, from her science to the countless men and women she mentored over the years and the many lives she changed for the better,” said Margaret McCarthy, PhD, the James and Carolyn Frenkil Dean’s Professor and Chair of the Department of Pharmacology.

During her decades at UMSOM, Dr. Aurelian performed interdisciplinary work in virology, immunology, and cellular and molecular biology, focusing on oncology and neuroscience. She authored 310 publications in high-impact peer-reviewed journals and numerous review articles and book chapters, and is the inventor of 14 U.S. and foreign patents. She has trained over 60 postdoctoral and 37 predoctoral fellows, many of whom hold academic positions.

She has served as an honorary professor in European, Israeli, Japanese, and Chinese universities and has received numerous international awards and honors.

Her contributions to science include the identification and molecular characterization of herpes simplex virus type 2 (HSV-2) and the role that it plays in human disease. Another major contribution has been the elucidation of factors involved in disease development and the demonstration that certain inhibitory cell pathways are involved in the causation of recurrent disease. These efforts culminated in the development of a therapeutic HSV vaccine that is in clinical trials. Towards the end of her research career, Dr.  Aurelian investigated oncolytic virotherapy, an emerging cancer therapeutic approach that was found to have modest clinical efficacy.

Dr. Aurelian received her MS in Microbiology at Tel-Aviv University in 1962 and her PhD in virology from Johns Hopkins in 1966. She joined the faculty at Hopkins in 1967. After becoming a tenured professor in 1983, she left Hopkins and joined the faculty of UMSOM where she remained until her retirement. In 2013, she also accepted the position of senior advisor at Stanford University Medical School.

E. Albert Reece, MD, PhD, MBA“Laure Aurelian was a trailblazer and a pioneer who forged an extremely successful research career.  Her vast accomplishments have left an indelible mark on virology that continue to yield promising new treatments for devastating diseases. Our scientific community in general and the UMSOM are indebted to Dr. Aurelian for her many important contributions,” said E. Albert Reece, MD, PhD, MBA, Executive Vice President for Medical Affairs, UM Baltimore, and the John Z. and Akiko K. Bowers Distinguished Professor and Dean, University of Maryland School of Medicine.

About the University of Maryland School of Medicine

Now in its third century, the University of Maryland School of Medicine was chartered in 1807 as the first public medical school in the United States. It continues today as one of the fastest growing, top-tier biomedical research enterprises in the world -- with 45 academic departments, centers, institutes, and programs; and a faculty of more than 3,000 physicians, scientists, and allied health professionals, including members of the National Academy of Medicine and the National Academy of Sciences, and a distinguished two-time winner of the Albert E. Lasker Award in Medical Research.  With an operating budget of more than $1.2 billion, the School of Medicine works closely in partnership with the University of Maryland Medical Center and Medical System to provide research-intensive, academic and clinically based care for nearly 2 million patients each year. The School of Medicine has more than $563 million in extramural funding, with most of its academic departments highly ranked among all medical schools in the nation in research funding. As one of the seven professional schools that make up the University of Maryland, Baltimore campus, the School of Medicine has a total population of nearly 9,000 faculty and staff, including 2,500 student trainees, residents, and fellows. The combined School of Medicine and Medical System (“University of Maryland Medicine”) has an annual budget of nearly $6 billion and an economic impact more than $15 billion on the state and local community. The School of Medicine, which ranks as the 8th highest among public medical schools in research productivity, is an innovator in translational medicine, with 600 active patents and 24 start-up companies. The School of Medicine works locally, nationally, and globally, with research and treatment facilities in 36 countries around the world. Visit medschool.umaryland.edu

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