Laura Koutsky

PhD 1987, Epidemiology

Paving the way for a vaccine to prevent cervical cancer

Laura played a critical role in the development of the groundbreaking vaccine against human papilloma viruses (HPV), which cause the majority of cervical and other ano-genital cancers worldwide. Laura’s seminal work demonstrating the link between HPV and cervical cancer began while she was still a PhD student. Her longitudinal studies showed that about 60% of women become infected with HPV within three years of beginning sexual activity, and that precancerous lesions can develop just months after infection.

This research spurred the development of new cervical cancer screening methods and was critical to the first HPV vaccine trials, for which Laura served as the lead investigator. The vaccine was commercially licensed in 2006 and is now available around the world. Royalties from the vaccine have bolstered UW SPH’s research budget, allowing it to hire star faculty and purchase state-of-art equipment. Known as a skilled mentor, Laura has received numerous awards for her leadership and contributions to sexually transmitted disease study and prevention.

 Affiliations: Professor Emeritus, Epidemiology, UW School of Public Health

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