Philip J. Provost
Inducted in 2010 for his isolation of the hepatitis A virus and research leading to the development of the hepatitis A vaccine.
Dr. Philip J. Provost has dedicated his career to virology, particularly to protecting against hepatitis A infection in humans.
Although hepatitis A is among the most ancient of human diseases and among the first to have been recorded by physicians, the hepatitis A virus (HAV), was identified less than 40 years ago. Dr. Provost joined Maurice Hilleman's virus research department at Merck Research Laboratories in 1970, as a Research Fellow and Head of the Exploratory Virus Research Laboratory, to make headway on hepatitis A research.
Dr. Provost and colleagues first demonstrated that marmosets and tamarins were tractable animal models for hepatitis A infection. He was then the first scientist to identify hepatitis A as a picornavirus, and received the Merck President's Award in 1975 for developing the first viral diagnostic for hepatitis A antigen and antibody. Dr. Provost's methodical research efforts led to a breakthrough in 1979, when he achieved the first ever growth of HAV in cell culture, paving the way toward development of a vaccine. This critical step made it possible to generate significant quantities of viral antigen to produce a vaccine.
The first hepatitis A vaccines were licensed in 1995 in the U.S. for children. National HAV infection rates declined by 76%, and by 2007, infection rates dropped to their lowest ever, 1.9/100,000.
Dr. Provost was inventor on numerous Merck U.S. and foreign patents covering hepatitis A virus, hepatitis A antigen and antibody, growth of hepatitis A virus in cell culture, and hepatitis A vaccine. He served on the International Picornavirus Study Group, and spoke before the Infectious Diseases Society of America, several International Hepatitis Congresses, and the International Congress of Virology. He retired from Merck as senior investigator in 1993, and has since served as a consultant in virology to various organizations.
Dr. Provost received a Ph.D. in microbiology from the University of Maryland in 1961, and a B.A. in bacteriology from University of Connecticut in 1957.