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UPDATE: Frank Malinoski '76
In some ways, Frank Malinoski '76, M.D., would like to be able file away his experience as a bioweapons inspector. But as U.N. weapons inspectors traversed Iraq last month and war loomed, Malinoski's past continued to be relevant to the present.
Malinoski helps develop new drugs for Wyeth, the global pharmaceutical company. Since he appeared in a feature here ("The Hot Zone and the Cold War," winter '01 Colby), he has been promoted to vice president of Global Medical Affairs Group for Wyeth, based in suburban Philadelphia. His group advises colleagues on medical issues related to its licensed products, doing everything from post-licensing clinical trials to reviewing advertising for medical accuracy.
Trained as both a medical researcher and physician, Malinoski has been involved in development of new drugs that could change our lives. One is a safe blood replacement for hemophiliacs. Another is applied directly to stents and other surgical instruments to locally suppress the immune response of transplant recipients. One vaccine, Prevnar, in use since 2000, prevents pneumococcal infections in children, a major health problem in developing countries. Wyeth also has developed a flu vaccine in the form of a nasal mist.
It's medical progress on a massive scale. "If the product gets to licensure, you can be treating or preventing disease in thousands, if not hundreds of thousands of patients a day," Malinoski said. "That's what is exciting to me."
Juxtaposed with his current efforts to combat natural threats to human health are the years he spent working to protect Americans from more diabolical threats. In the 1980s and early 1990s, Malinoski was a clinical investigator with the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases. His job was to help develop vaccines for Americans who might be victims of germ warfare. That expertise made Malinoski a valuable member of teams that inspected suspected bioweapons plants in the former Soviet Union--and in Iraq.
In a case of bioweapons déjà vu, war loomed and inspection teams had just arrived in Baghdad when we spoke to Malinoski in November. He said he knows many of the players in bioweapons detection, and, after reading news reports, speaks to some to find out "what is really going on."
Malinoski said the effectiveness of the new inspections depends on what intelligence has been gathered and what the Iraqi military has been able to do since the last time inspectors were allowed. "It's a big country," Malinoski said. "It's full of caves, a barren place."
And he noted that in the case of bioweapons, inspectors may be searching an entire country for a facility the size of a microbrewery. Ultimately, the world may never know what has been missed, he said.
That was Malinoski the ex-bioweapons hunter talking. The pharmaceutical doctor had another observation. "We have too many natural threats to our health," he said, "to be sitting around throwing diseases at each other."
--Gerry Boyle '78
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