News Release

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

NIH remembers Dr. Franklin A. Neva

Franklin A. Neva, M.D., a renowned virologist, parasitologist, clinician and former chief of the Laboratory of Parasitic Diseases at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), part of the National Institutes of Health, died on Oct. 15, 2011. He was 89 years old.

"Frank Neva was an exceptional scientist and clinician who established a pioneering biomedical research program focused on the interactions between humans and parasites," said NIAID Director Anthony S. Fauci, M.D. "He built the NIAID Laboratory of Parasitic Diseases into a world-class team, hiring and training future leaders in clinical parasitology for more than 30 years. He was widely admired as a person, mentor, clinician and scientist, and he will be greatly missed."

After medical school and an internship, Dr. Neva began his research career in 1947, studying typhoid fever and schistosomiasis at Naval Medical Research Unit-3 in Cairo. He then spent three years at Harvard University, Cambridge, Mass., where he first described Boston exanthem disease, an echovirus infection in children characterized by mild fever and widespread rash. After an academic appointment in the laboratory of Dr. Jonas Salk at the University of Pittsburgh, Dr. Neva returned to Harvard to work in the newly created Department of Tropical Public Health. In 1962 he and Dr. Thomas Weller co-discovered rubella virus, the cause of German measles. An independent group at the Walter Reed Army Institute for Research, Washington, D.C., also isolated the virus around the same time.

Dr. Neva was recruited to NIAID in 1969 to become chief of the NIAID Laboratory of Parasitic Diseases (LPD). He helped coalesce LPD research sections scattered from Hawaii to Georgia to Bethesda, Md., and from the beginning, he emphasized research on the biology of parasites as well as on the human immune responses to parasitic infections. In 1971, he hired Dr. Louis Miller, who established a highly productive malaria research laboratory and later succeeded Dr. Neva as chief of LPD.

"Frank was brought to NIH to revitalize the Laboratory of Parasitic Diseases, and he did just that," said Dr. Miller, who currently is a section chief in the NIAID Laboratory of Malaria and Vector Research. "He knew how to bring out the best in his staff and was deeply respected by all of us."

Dr. Neva hired many future NIH leaders of tropical disease research, such as Drs. Tom Wellems, Tom Nutman, David Sacks, Ted Nash and Alan Sher. In doing so he shepherded the growth of parasitology research at NIH from a small area of focus to a program that is now spread among four different NIAID laboratory groups and involves about 400 NIAID scientific staff at laboratories in Bethesda and overseas.

Dr. Neva also established a clinical service for parasitic infections at NIH, which treats patients from developing countries as well as U.S. citizens whose cases are of scientific interest. He mentored many LPD trainees who subsequently rose to leadership positions in universities, government agencies and international health organizations.

“Frank made major contributions to the study of malaria, leishmaniasis, Chagas disease and strongyloidiasis,” said Dr. Nash, an LPD section chief and Dr. Neva’s first research fellow. “His great love was clinical parasitology,” Dr. Nash said. “There was no one better clinically. I most appreciated his integrity, humility and unselfishness—traits he used to make considered decisions for the benefit of his staff.”

Among his many honors, Dr. Neva was the first member of the American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene (ASTMH) to receive its Ben Kean Medal, an award that recognized his dedication to clinical tropical medicine and his impact on the training of students, fellows and practitioners of tropical medicine. He also received the ASTMH Donald Mackay Medal, a highly selective recognition for outstanding work in tropical health relating to improvements in the health of rural or urban workers in the tropics; the ASTMH Bailey K. Ashford Medal for distinguished work in tropical medicine early in his career; the Joseph E. Smadel Lectureship from the Infectious Diseases Society of America; and the Presidential Meritorious Executive Rank Award for his exemplary leadership and public service.

NIAID conducts and supports research—at NIH, throughout the United States, and worldwide— to study the causes of infectious and immune-mediated diseases, and to develop better means of preventing, diagnosing and treating these illnesses. News releases, fact sheets and other NIAID-related materials are available on the NIAID Web site at

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