Dr. Adel Mahmoud, an Egyptian infectious-disease expert who was one of the developers of lifesaving vaccines died on June 11 in Manhattan at the age of 76. He died at Mount Sinai St. Luke’s Hospital from a brain hemorrhage.
As president of Merck Vaccines (1998-2006), Dr. Mahmoud oversaw the creation and marketing of several vaccines that brought major advances in public health. One prevents rotavirus infection, a potentially fatal cause of diarrhea in babies. Another protects against human papillomavirus (HPV), which causes cancers of the cervix, anus, genitals and middle of the throat. He also played major roles in the development of a combination vaccine against measles, mumps, rubella and chickenpox, and one to prevent shingles, the painful and debilitating illness that can develop when a previous chickenpox infection is reactivated.
Mahmoud’s emergence as one of the most prominent and widely respected voices in global health was unlikely. Born in Cairo in 1941, Mahmoud’s first brush with infectious disease came at the age of 10 when he sprinted to a pharmacy to procure penicillin for his father, who was dying of pneumococcal pneumonia. He didn’t make it back in time.
Mahmoud received his M.D. from the University of Cairo in 1963. As a medical student, he became active in politics, serving as a leader in former Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser’s youth movement. But as the political climate in Egypt evolved, Mahmoud recommitted himself to medicine and left Egypt in 1968 for the United Kingdom. In 1971, he obtained a Ph.D. from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.
Dr. Mahmoud brought leaders in global medicine and Nobel Prize winners together to address the world’s largest health crises, often by gathering them around his dinner table for the traditional Middle Eastern dishes he would prepare.
Mahmoud is survived by his wife, Dr. Sally Hodder, and son, Jay Thornton, as well his siblings, Dr. Olfat Abdelfattah and Dr. Mahmoud Abdelfattah.