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On the Death of Dr. Robert M. Chanock

August 3, 2010


Statement of Anthony S. Fauci, M.D.
Director, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases
National Institutes of Health


Robert M. Chanock, M.D., a world-renowned virologist and former chief of the Laboratory of Infectious Diseases at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), died on July 30, 2010. He was 86 years old.

Anthony S. Fauci, M.D., director of NIAID, said, “NIAID and NIH mourn the loss of Bob Chanock, an outstanding scientist whose innumerable contributions to the understanding of viral diseases helped make the world a healthier place for millions of people. Bob truly was a legend whose work has had a profound influence on so many in the scientific community, including me.”

Dr. Fauci added, “When I first was learning about infectious diseases, in medical school and residency, Bob’s papers and chapters popped up everywhere. The name ‘Chanock’ seemed synonymous with disease discovery. He was an admired mentor, colleague and friend, and he will be greatly missed.”

Dr. Chanock began his research career working under Dr. Albert Sabin at Children's Hospital Research Foundation in Cincinnati. He joined the NIAID Laboratory of Infectious Diseases in 1957, where he and colleagues were the first to identify and characterize human respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), the most common cause of serious lower respiratory tract disease in infants and children worldwide. He and his research group subsequently developed and brought to FDA licensure an antibody to prevent RSV disease in high-risk infants and were instrumental to the further development and licensure of the first nasal spray influenza vaccine. 

Dr. Chanock and colleagues discovered the four parainfluenza viruses (important causes of childhood respiratory disease), isolated new strains of rhinovirus and coronavirus (causes of the common cold), and isolated and characterized Mycoplasma pneumoniae (a cause of bacterial pneumonia). He and his colleagues helped develop an FDA-approved vaccine against the respiratory pathogen adenovirus, and initiated studies on hepatitis viruses and gastroenteritis viruses that led to the development and licensure of vaccines for hepatitis A and rotavirus. Dr. Chanock also began an ambitious program in his laboratory to develop vaccines against dengue fever. Candidate vaccines from this program are now in clinical trials.

Among his many honors, Dr. Chanock was elected a member of the National Academy of Sciences and the Danish Royal Academy of Sciences. He received the Infectious Diseases Society of America (IDSA) Joseph E. Smadel Medal, the IDSA Squibb Award for Excellence in the Field of Infectious Disease, the E. Mead Johnson Award for research in pediatrics, the Robert Koch Medal, the Bristol-Myers Squibb Award for Distinguished Achievement in Infectious Disease Research, and the Albert B. Sabin Gold Medal for exemplary research in the field of vaccinology. He also received the U.S. Public Health Service Meritorious Service Medal and Distinguished Service Medal.

Dr. Fauci is director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Maryland.

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Media inquiries can be directed to the NIAID Office of Communications at 301-402-1663, niaidnews@niaid.nih.gov.


NIAID conducts and supports research—at NIH, throughout the United States, and worldwide—to study the causes of infectious and immune-mediated diseases, and to develop better means of preventing, diagnosing and treating these illnesses. News releases, fact sheets and other NIAID-related materials are available on the NIAID Web site at www.niaid.nih.gov.

About the National Institutes of Health (NIH): NIH, the nation's medical research agency, includes 27 Institutes and Centers and is a component of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. NIH is the primary federal agency conducting and supporting basic, clinical, and translational medical research, and is investigating the causes, treatments, and cures for both common and rare diseases. For more information about NIH and its programs, visit www.nih.gov.

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Last Updated August 03, 2010

Last Reviewed August 02, 2010