Jan Holmgren, @ Sabin Vaccine Institute

Luminary in vaccine research

Jan Holmgren, developer of the first effective oral cholera vaccine, has been awarded the 2017 Sabin Gold Medal for his pioneering contributions to oral vaccine research and mucosal immunology, and his leadership in the discovery of the world's first effective oral cholera vaccine.

Holmgren is a professor of Medical Microbiology at the Sahlgrenska Academy at the University of Gothenburg, Sweden. He is also the founding director of the University of Gothenburg Vaccine Research Institute.


In the 1980s and 90s, Holmgren and colleagues developed the Dukoral whole cell-B subunit oral cholera vaccine (OCV), which became the first internationally licensed and World Health Organization (WHO) prequalified OCV. They later shared the formula with researchers in Vietnam and India to facilitate a lower-cost version of the oral cholera vaccine Shanchol, which is now prequalified and stockpiled for international use by the WHO. 

Holmgren’s research has focused primarily on mucosal vaccine development as well as disease and immune mechanisms of cholera and other mucosal infections. Holmgren and colleagues first described the AB subunit structure and function of cholera toxin and identified the cholera toxin receptor, then the first-ever structurally defined biologic receptor molecule. They were also the first to describe mucosal immune protection and memory in cholera. 

Holmgren has published more than 600 papers in the fields of microbiology, immunology and vaccinology.

The Albert B. Sabin Gold Medal Award has been awarded annually since 1994 and is given to a distinguished member of the public health community who has made extraordinary contributions in the field of vaccinology or a complementary field. The 2017 Sabin Gold Medal Award Ceremony was held April 25, 2017, at the National Academy of Sciences building in Washington, D.C.