Jan Vilcek

National Medal of Technology and Innovation

Medicine

For pioneering work on interferons and key contributions to the development of therapeutic monoclonal antibodies.

For pioneering work on interferons and key contributions to the development of therapeutic monoclonal antibodies.

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Birth
June 17, 1933
Age Awarded
78
Country of Birth
Slovakia
Key Contributions
Inflammatory Autoimmune Disease Treatment
Awarded by
Barack Obama
Education
Czechoslovak Academy of Sciences
New York University School of Medicine
Areas of Impact
Health & Medicine
Affiliations
NYU Langone Medical Center
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Growing up in Czechoslovakia, Jan Vilcek dreamt of becoming a journalist or lawyer – two occupations burdened by the country’s Communist ideals. Instead, Vilcek did what his parents wanted: He became a doctor.

During medical school, after volunteering for a microbiology project, Vilcek became fascinated by research, but yearned to leave his homeland.

In 1964, he slipped under the Iron Curtain into America, defecting using visas for a weekend trip to Vienna.

A year later, Vilcek began work at New York University as an assistant professor of microbiology. There, he studied interferon, proteins that protect the body against viruses and other pathogens.

Out of this research, Vilcek and a colleague helped develop an antibody that serves as the basis for Remicade, an anti-inflammatory drug used primarily to treat rheumatoid arthritis.

Using royalties from Remicade, Vilcek and his wife established a foundation to help other immigrants pursue their academic and professional dreams.

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