Born 5th December, 1916 (Warsaw, Poland) - Died 13th November, 2013 (Wynewood, Philadelphia, USA)
A pioneer in the development of the oral polio and modern rabies vaccines, Koprowski was the first scientist, together with colleagues, to be granted a patent for monoclonal antibodies.
(Photo credit: Anne Schoemaker)
Born to Jewish parents, Koprowski was the only son of one of Russia's first female dentists and a Russian soldier who had survived the sinking of his ship during the Russian-Japanese war. In 1938 Koprowski married Irena Koprowska, a fellow medical student, with whom he had two sons. When the Nazis invaded Poland Koprowski initally looked to join the Polish army, but was forced to depart with Irena, then in the late stages of pregnancy, and his parents. They fled temporarily to Rome, before escaping to Rio de Janeiro and then New York in December 1944.
At the age of five Koprowski started learning the piano, going on to earn music degrees from the Warsaw Conservatory of Music and the Santa Cecilia Conservatory in Rome. While fourth best in his class at the Warsaw Conservatory, Koprowski simultaneously trained in medicine at Warsaw University, believing a career in medicine offered him greater options to excel. Completing his medical degree in 1939, the outbreak of the Second Wold War reinforced his decision to pursue a medical career. This did not stop him playing the piano or composing music throughout his life.
A chance meeting with a former schoolmate in Brazil helped secure Koprowski a position at the Rockefeller Foundation in Rio, launching his foray into virology and vaccine research. His initial efforts in this area were devoted to the development of a live-virus vaccine against yellow fever. In 1945 Koprowski became a researcher for Lederle Laboratories in New York where he focused on developing a polio vaccine. From 1957 and 1991 Koprowski was director of the Wistar Institute, leading it to become internationally renowned for vaccine research and a National Cancer Institute Cancer Center.
Koprowski is most well known for his development of the first oral polio vaccine. Whilst at the Wistar he also helped develop the rubella vaccine that was to eradicate the disease from much of the world, a rabies vaccine based on tissue culture for humans, and an oral bait rabies vaccine for animals. In the late 1970s he and his Wistar colleagues were granted the first monoclonal antibody American patents which he used to co-found Centocor, one of the first biotechnology companies to commercialise monoclonal antibody diagnostics and therapeutics.
Hilary Koprowski: timeline of key events
|5 Dec 1916||Hilary Koprowski was born in Warsaw, Poland||Koprowski||Warsaw, Poland|
|1957||Hilary Koprowski appointed fifth director of the Wistar Institute||Koprowski||Wistar Institute|
|September 1976||Cesar Milstein supplies myeloma cells to Hilary Koprowski at the Wistar Institute for producing monoclonal antibodies||Koprowski, Milstein||Laboratory of Molecular Biology, Wistar Institute|
|June 1977||First US patent application filed for monoclonal antibodies||Croce, Koprowski, Milstein||Wistar Institute|
|May 1979||Centocor founded||Koprowski, Schoemaker, Wall||Wistar Institute|
|October 1979||First US patent for monoclonal antibodies granted||Koprowski, Milstein||Wistar Institute|
|1980||US licensed first rabies vaccine for human use||Koprowski, Plotkin, Wiktor||Wistar Institute|
|December 1980||Clinical tials begin with a monoclonal antibody for the treatment of gastrointestinal cancer||Koprowski||Wistar Institute|
|1995||First monoclonal antibody drug for cancer approved in Europe||Koprowski|
|1995||First monoclonal antibody therapeutic for cancer approved for market||Koprowski||Wistar Institute, Centocor|
|13 Nov 2013||Hilary Koprowski died in Wynewood, Philadelphia, USA||Koprowski|
5 Dec 1916
Hilary Koprowski was born in Warsaw, Poland
Hilary Koprowski appointed fifth director of the Wistar Institute
Cesar Milstein supplies myeloma cells to Hilary Koprowski at the Wistar Institute for producing monoclonal antibodies
First US patent application filed for monoclonal antibodies
First US patent for monoclonal antibodies granted
US licensed first rabies vaccine for human use
Clinical tials begin with a monoclonal antibody for the treatment of gastrointestinal cancer
First monoclonal antibody drug for cancer approved in Europe
First monoclonal antibody therapeutic for cancer approved for market
13 Nov 2013
Hilary Koprowski died in Wynewood, Philadelphia, USA