Donald Gilden, MD

Diane Griffin, M.D., Ph.D.
Johns Hopkins University School of Hygiene & Public Health

2009 recipient of the
ISNV Pioneer in NeuroVirology Award

We are pleased to announce that Dr. Diane Griffin has been selected as the 2009 Pioneer in NeuroVirology. Dr. Griffin is the seventh distinguished scientist to receive the highest award given by the Society. She has already received many accolades in a career filled with academic and scientific achievements including elections to the American Academy of Microbiology and the National Academy of Sciences in 2004. Dr. Diane Griffin is an outstanding scientist, colleague, member of the ISNV, and friend to many in the field of neurovirology and related disciplines.

Dr. Griffin received her undergraduate degree from Augustana College, a small liberal arts college in Rock Island, Illinois. In 1962, after receiving a great undergraduate science education she decided to pursue her graduate studies by enrolling in a Ph.D. program in microbiology at Stanford University in California. After arriving at Stanford, Dr. Griffin joined the laboratory of Leon Rosenberg and began a research project on immunoglobulins. Shortly after beginning graduate school, an interest in medicine began to emerge and she decided to apply to Stanford’s M.D. program and after acceptance decided to enroll in their five-year medical program that would allow her to continue her Ph.D. project during the first three years of her medical training. In 1968, Dr. Griffin completed her medical and graduate training and received her Ph.D. (studying antibodies directed against nitrophenyl haptens) and M.D. degrees from Stanford. After completing her internship and residency training at Stanford Hospital she traversed the country to Baltimore for her postdoctoral studies.

While her graduate training had been in immunology she began developing an interest in virology during the course of her medical training. This interest led her to accept a postdoctoral fellowship with a new young faculty member named Richard (Dick) Johnson, a blossoming specialist in viral infections of the nervous system and the first Pioneer in NeuroVirology many years later (1999). Dr. Griffin rose through the academic ranks in the Department of Neurology in the Medical School at Johns Hopkins University beginning with her appointment as an assistant professor in 1973, associate professor in 1979, and full professor in 1986. In 1994, Dr. Griffin accepted the position of Professor and Chair of the Department of Molecular Microbiology and Immunology at the Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health.

Dr. Griffin has studied the host immune responses to viral infections since her early days at Johns Hopkins University. Her career has centered on two primary areas of research including the neurovirulence of Sindbis virus and immunosuppression induced by human measles virus. This knowledge has been critical to her latest vaccine efforts using Sindbis virus particles expressing the measles hemagglutinin protein. Her studies pinpoint the difficulty involved in clearing measles virus from the human body. Furthermore, her work may lead to a new vaccine that could be delivered to infants in developing countries where this virus is still a major public health problem.

In collaboration with Dick Johnson and many other investigators over the years, Dr. Griffin has made major strides in understanding the molecular biology, immunology, and epidemiology of post-measles encephalitis. These studies have been pioneering and have resulted in a greater understanding of why measles virus infection is so dangerous in developing countries. Although the virus does not kill many individuals, it leaves infected children susceptible to other infectious diseases such as malaria. More recently, Dr. Griffin’s group has been involved in field studies in Zambia that indicated that HIV-compromised children exhibited prolonged shedding of measles virus.

Overall, Dr. Griffin has had many exciting breakthrough scientific achievements and an outstanding career at Johns Hopkins University and the International Society for NeuroVirology provides congratulations on her recognition as the 2009 ISNV Pioneer in NeuroVirology.