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In London, Robert Webster, Ph.D., delivers the 2010 Leeuwenhoek Lecture to the world’s oldest scientific academy, in recognition to his contributions to the field of virology
Acclaimed virologist Robert Webster, Ph.D., of St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, presented the 2010 Leeuwenhoek prize lecture today, a prestigious recognition awarded by the Royal Society in London.
The Leeuwenhoek Lecture, named after microscopist Antony van Leeuwenhoek, was established to recognize excellence in the field of microbiology. The Royal Society, founded in 1660, is the world’s oldest scientific academy in continuous existence.
“I am deeply honored to be invited to present the 2010 Leeuwenhoek Lecture on the 350th anniversary of the Royal Society,” Webster said at the start of his presentation, “Pandemic Influenza: One Flu over the Cuckoo’s Nest.”
Webster provided an overview on pandemic influenza viruses, including a discussion of origins as well as response to the 2009 H1N1 strain worldwide. “Overall, we have been extremely fortunate. But we simply can’t predict severity,” Webster said stressing that strong global surveillance is key moving forward.
The prize lecture acknowledges Webster’s many contributions to the field of virology.
His research into the structure and function of influenza virus proteins has added volumes to the world’s knowledge of influenza as an emerging pathogen. Webster’s work has explored the development of new vaccines and antivirals as well as the role that wild birds play as major reservoirs for influenza viruses and their function in the evolution of new pandemic strains for humans and lower animals.
A native of New Zealand, Webster joined St. Jude in 1968 and holds the Rose Marie Thomas Chair in Infectious Diseases. St. Jude is home to the only World Health Organization collaborating center focusing on the transmission of animal influenza viruses to humans. The hospital also hosts one of six Centers of Excellence for Influenza Research and Surveillance funded by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, a part of the National Institutes of Health.
Webster has received numerous honors throughout his career, including election to the Royal Society, London; the Royal Society of New Zealand; and the U.S. National Academy of Sciences.
“The Leeuwenhoek Lecture is a well-deserved acknowledgement for Dr. Webster, whose life’s work has greatly progressed influenza research worldwide,” said Dr. William E. Evans, St. Jude director and CEO. “The Royal Society honor is a reflection of an esteemed career that has provided significant advancements to the field of virology.”
The Royal Society’s members are some of the most eminent scientists of the day, including more than 60 Nobel laureates. Throughout its history, the organization has promoted excellence in science through its Fellowship and Foreign Membership, which has included Isaac Newton, Charles Darwin, Ernest Rutherford, Albert Einstein, Dorothy Hodgkin, Francis Crick, James Watson and Stephen Hawking.
St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital
St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital is internationally recognized for its pioneering research and treatment of children with cancer and other catastrophic diseases. Ranked the No. 1 pediatric cancer hospital by Parents magazine and the No. 1 children’s cancer hospital by U.S. News & World Report, St. Jude is the first and only National Cancer Institute-designated Comprehensive Cancer Center devoted solely to children. St. Jude has treated children from all 50 states and from around the world, serving as a trusted resource for physicians and researchers. St. Jude has developed research protocols that helped push overall survival rates for childhood cancer from less than 20 percent when the hospital opened to almost 80 percent today. St. Jude is the national coordinating center for the Pediatric Brain Tumor Consortium and the Childhood Cancer Survivor Study. In addition to pediatric cancer research, St. Jude is also a leader in sickle cell disease research and is a globally prominent research center for influenza.
Founded in 1962 by the late entertainer Danny Thomas, St. Jude freely shares its discoveries with scientific and medical communities around the world, publishing more research articles than any other pediatric cancer research center in the United States. St. Jude treats more than 5,700 patients each year and is the only pediatric cancer research center where families never pay for treatment not covered by insurance. St. Jude is financially supported by thousands of individual donors, organizations and corporations without which the hospital’s work would not be possible. In 2010, St. Jude was ranked the most trusted charity in the nation in a public survey conducted by Harris Interactive, a highly respected international polling and research firm.