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Dr. Ed Cupp receives the 2009 Merck Mectizan Award

04 November 2009

Merck & Co., Inc.* and the Mectizan Donation Program are pleased to announce that Dr. Ed Cupp is the recipient of the 2009 Merck Mectizan Award. Dr. Cupp was nominated by his peers for his remarkable contributions to the control and elimination of onchocerciasis. Dr. Cupp has amassed a number of achievements that make him well-qualified for the award:

• In the 1980’s he participated in groundbreaking clinical and epidemiological trials with ivermectin in Liberia and Guatemala. Despite civil unrest in both locations, he persevered and helped deliver scientific results that were essential in the eventual donation of Mectizan for mass distribution to fight onchocerciasis.

• He conducted seminal studies on the frequency of treatment with Mectizan, which led to twice yearly treatment cycles being established in the Americas beginning in 1994.  As a result, the cycle of onchocerciasis transmission is being broken, and more than 31% of the formerly at-risk population in the Americas is now free of the risk of infection.

• Dr. Cupp serves as a member of the Mectizan Expert Committee, allowing your expertise to inform the general technical oversight of global onchocerciasis and lymphatic filariasis programs.  Additionally, as both a member and chair of the Program Coordinating Committee of the Onchocerciasis Elimination Program of the Americas, your technical competence and managerial expertise provided invaluable contributions to program development.

In addition to the accomplishments above, Dr. Cupp remains committed to the cause and continues to contribute his knowledge and expertise in the ongoing effort to eliminate onchocerciasis. Dr. Cupp’s acceptance speech:

“I thank Merck and Company and the Mectizan Donation Program for naming me the 2009 Mectizan Award recipient. I am both honored and humbled by this award because there are many other equally qualified colleagues in the field of onchocerciasis control who could have been chosen.

I thank my colleagues who nominated me and supported my nomination through their letters and words of encouragement. Their actions are much appreciated. I want also to thank my wife, Dr. Mary Cupp, for the support she provided through the years as I worked away from home in Africa and the Americas. Her professional contributions as a major collaborator in my research efforts are greatly appreciated as well. Finally, I want to thank my colleagues in the onchocerciasis research community whose work through the years has inspired me to continue in this important area of tropical public health.

I began working in onchocerciasis control in 1984 as a member of a team assembled by WHO in Liberia to evaluate the usefulness of ivermectin. However, I had already seen the ravages of onchocerciasis in  Guatemala in 1968 as a graduate student touring that country and it galvanized my decision to focus on vector biology and disease control. Little did I realize at the time that I would have such a great opportunity to contribute to control of human onchocerciasis twenty years later. After beginning research and evaluation of ivermectin in Liberia, I was forced to move to Guatemala because of civil unrest and continue field evaluations there. Through the efforts of many, the Onchocerciasis Elimination Program for the Americas (OEPA) was eventually founded and is succeeding in eliminating the disease in the western hemisphere. It has been a great pleasure to work with OEPA staff and particularly the Director, Dr. Mauricio Sauerbrey, who has been a friend and colleague for more than 30 years.

I would also like to dedicate this award to four late colleagues who were instrumental in helping shape my professional development in onchocerciasis control over the past 25 years. They are Dr. Mohammed Aziz of Merck and Company who was instrumental in bring ivermectin to Africa and organizing some of the first evaluations; Dr. Bruce Green who was a close friend and research team leader in Liberia in the mid-1980s; Dr. Brian Duke, a good friend and mentor who was also a great inspiration by his leadership in developing the science of onchocerciais control, and; Dr. Onofre Ochoa, a very good friend and colleague who so ably assisted me and the research team in Guatemala during several important field studies.

Again, thank you all for this great honor.”

 

*Merck & Co., Inc. is known as MSD outside Canada and the United States.