Dr. Richard Schlegel’s laboratory at Georgetown developed the technology for the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine, for which the dominant patent for the vaccine technology was awarded by the U.S. Patent Office in 2005. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved the HPV vaccine for use in June 2006.
HPV causes almost all incidences of cervical cancer, which is the second-leading cause of cancer deaths in women worldwide. Dr. Schlegel’s laboratory is currently developing, with grants from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the National Institutes of Health (NIH), second- and third-generation vaccines that could be used to prevent HPV and decrease the incidence of HPV in the developing world, where almost all deaths from cervical cancer occur.
Dr. Schlegel’s laboratory utilizes a wide range of experimental approaches to investigate HPV/host interactions at the immunological, cellular, and molecular levels. In particular, his lab looks at three oncogenes in the papillomavirus genome with in vitro transforming activity: E5, E6, and E7, in order to understand how the mechanism of papillomavirus-mediated cell transformation can eventually lead to the design of viral-specific therapeutics.
Building from his work on the first-generation HPV vaccine, the second- and third-generation vaccines are being based upon a GST-L1 fusion protein expressed in bacteria. Appending GST to L1—the major component in the first generation vaccine— allows for rapid purification of the vaccine, as well as stabilizing its protein conformation.
Beginning in 1980, Dr. Schlegel was an investigator, then a senior investigator at the National Cancer Institute (NCI), and later served as Chief of the Cell Regulation and Transformation Section in the Laboratory of Tumor Virus Biology at NCI. In 1990, he joined GUMC as an Associate Professor in the Department of Pathology, and became Chair of that department in 2003. He serves on the editorial board of the journal Virology and serves as a permanent member of the NIH Virology study section.
He received his MD and PhD degrees from Northwestern University Medical School, and was a resident and post-doctoral fellow at Harvard Medical School (Brigham Hospital) in the fields of Pathology and Virology.