Campus News Science & Technology

African meningitis enemy is next UGA Voices lecturer

Athens, Ga. – A public health visionary who has spent the past 10 years developing an effective and inexpensive meningitis vaccine for Africa will deliver the next Global Diseases: Voices from the Vanguard lecture on March 20 at 5:30 p.m. in the University of Georgia Chapel.

Meningitis epidemics have long plagued Sub-Saharan Africa, but high cost put preventive vaccines made by U.S. and European drug companies out of reach. Thanks to the work of physician Dr. Marc LaForce, a safe, effective vaccine developed expressly for Sub-Saharan Africa but effective elsewhere and costing only 50 cents per dose can now protect Africans.

In his lecture “African Meningitis: Hope is a Vaccine,” LaForce will discuss the global collaboration that made the breakthrough possible and how it reaches from Seattle to manufacturing plants in India.

LaForce has been director of the Meningitis Vaccine Project, a PATH/World Health Organization partnership, since 2001.

“Cutting the price of a safe and effective vaccine by a factor of 100 is an amazing accomplishment,” said UGA’s Patricia Thomas, holder of the Knight Chair in Health and Medical Journalism and co-organizer of the lecture series. “But I also believe we’ll hear that more funding is needed to reach everyone who needs protection.”

LaForce earned his doctor of medicine degree from Seton Hall College of Medicine and Dentistry in New Jersey and completed his internal medicine and infectious disease training on the Harvard Service at Boston City Hospital. He is board-certified in internal medicine and infectious diseases and is a Fellow of the American College of Physicians and the Infectious Diseases Society of America.

He served as Epidemic Intelligence Service officer in the Meningitis and Special Pathogen units at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. He has held research and academic positions at the University of Colorado and the Rochester School of Medicine.

LaForce has served on the CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices, the ACP Committee on Adult Immunizations and was president of the Armed Forces Epidemiological Board from 1999-2001. From 1995 to 2001, he chaired WHO’s Global Program on Vaccines, Steering Committee on Epidemiology and Field Research.

He has published more than 200 papers and book chapters in the areas of pulmonary defense mechanisms, clinical infectious diseases, epidemiology and vaccinology.

LaForce’s lecture will be followed by a reception at Demosthenian Hall.

The 2012 Voices from the Vanguard series will conclude April 17 with field biologist and biodiversity expert Matt LeBreton of the Global Virus Forecasting Initiative, who looks for emerging infectious scourges among bush meat hunters and indigenous populations in Cameroon.

The “Global Diseases: Voices from the Vanguard” lecture series is a joint effort of Patricia Thomas, holder of UGA’s Knight Chair in Health and Medical Journalism in the Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication, and Daniel G. Colley, director of UGA’s Center for Tropical and Emerging Global Diseases. For more information, see