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Inaugural Lokhandwala Lecture

Renowned Physician-Scientist Peter Hotez Discusses Vaccine Programs, Threat of Anti-science Movement

August 29 — In his presentation at the University of Houston College of Pharmacy's inaugural Lokhandwala Lecture & Research Convocation June 26, renowned physician, scientist, author and vaccine advocate Peter J. Hotez, M.D., Ph.D., encouraged current and future health professionals to be more vocal in engaging with patients and the community alike about the safety and science behind vaccines to combat the dangerous wave of "anti-vaxx" and anti-science rhetoric.

During his presentation, "COVID-19 and Vaccines: Science vs. Anti-science," Hotez discussed his academic and research journey, his particular interest in tropical and neglected diseases, his profound certainty that vaccines were not responsible for his daughter's autism, and his willingness to speak out on public health matters in the news and social media despite facing insults and threats from the misinformed to the fanatical conspiracy theorists.

Life of Service to Science

Hotez serves as dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine and Professor of Pediatrics and Molecular Virology & Microbiology at Baylor College of Medicine where he is also the co-director of the Texas Children’s Center for Vaccine Development (CVD) and Texas Children’s Hospital Endowed Chair of Tropical Pediatrics./p>

Hotez is an internationally recognized physician-scientist in neglected tropical diseases and vaccine development. As co-director of the Texas Children’s CVD, he leads a team and product development partnership for developing new vaccines for hookworm infection, schistosomiasis, leishmaniasis, Chagas disease, and SARS/MERS/SARS-2 coronavirus, diseases affecting hundreds of millions of children and adults worldwide, while championing access to vaccines globally and in the U.S.

In December 2021, Hotez led efforts at the Texas Children’s Center for Vaccine Development to develop a low-cost recombinant protein COVID vaccine for global health, resulting in emergency use authorization in India. In 2022, Hotez and his colleague Dr. Maria Elena Bottazzi were nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize for "their work to develop and distribute a low-cost COVID-19 vaccine to people of the world without patent limitation."

Graduate TED Talks

The event also featured three-minute TED Talks by UHCOP graduate students on their current research:

  • Kalyani A. Kulkarni, "Angiotensin II Type 2 Receptor (AT2R) Activation Prevents Disruption in Megalin Cellular Location and the Onset of Proteinuria in Obese Zucker Rats Fed with High Sodium Diet";
  • Tarilate Temedie Asogwu, "Determinants of Race and Ethnic Disparities in the use of Preventive Health Services for Cardiovascular Diseases (CV) Among Adults in the United States";
  • Prachet Bhatt, "Intention to dispose of unused prescription medications used in home disposal products";
  • Sayantap Datta, "Dual Targeting Oncogene and Inflammation for Breast Cancer Therapy"; and
  • Jieni Li, "Machine Learning Approaches to Evaluate Treatment Switching in Patients with Multiple Sclerosis."

Honoring Former Dean

The convocation and lecture series honors UHCOP Professor Emeritus Mustafa F. Lokhandwala, Ph.D., FAHA, FASN.

Known to most as "Musti," Lokhandwala came to UH in 1972 as a graduate student joined the college faculty and administration in 1981. Over the next 46 years, Lokhandwala was elevated to numerous leadership posts within the college – including Department Chair (1980-1991), Dean (1992-2002), Executive Vice-Dean for Research (2003-2019), Joseph P. and Shirley Shipman Buckley Endowed Professor (2018-2022) and Director of the Heart and Kidney Institute (2006-2021) – and in his scientific and professional pursuits, including election as Fellow of American Heart Association and the American Society of Nephrology.

Lokhandwala’s passion and commitment to the college, its students and scientific knowledge resulted in many achievements in the college’s growth and development, including securing approval from the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board for establishing Ph.D. and Pharm.D. programs at the college and increasing research funding from $500,000 in the 1990s to over $11 million in FY2018.

Lokhandwala’s successful research program, which focused on understanding the mechanisms of cardiovascular diseases such as hypertension, received continuous support from the National Institutes of Health. His research also has produced more than 200 peer-reviewed journal articles and reviews, 200-plus abstracts, and more than two dozen books and book chapters.