Former Perelman School of Medicine Microbiology Department Chair Neal Nathanson died on Aug. 11 at age 94 due to complications resulting from leukemia and pneumonia.
Nathanson — who joined the Medical School as a department chair in 1979 — led research in polio epidemiology and spearheaded research on lentiviruses, a genus that includes HIV, the virus which can progress into AIDS. He was named the director of the National Institutes of Health’s Office of AIDS Research in 1998.
Memorial services will be held in the fall in Cambridge, Mass. and Philadelphia.
Born in 1927, Nathanson earned his bachelor's degree and medical degree at Harvard University before receiving clinical training at the University of Chicago and postdoctoral training in virology at Johns Hopkins University.
Nathanson also served as the president of the American Epidemiological Society and edited the American Journal of Epidemiology at Johns Hopkins University. In 1979, he established the journal Epidemiologic Reviews with Johns Hopkins professor Philip Sartwell.
Nathanson's roles at the Medical School included vice provost for research and associate dean of the global health programs. Nathanson left his position as research provost in 2003 in what he called his “fourth retirement” to return as a professor emeritus of microbiology.
“I retired as professor at Penn, then I was the vice dean for research, then I was the director of AIDS research at NIH and this one makes four,” Nathanson told The Daily Pennsylvanian in 2003. “When one story’s done, it’s time to move on to the next.”
Nathanson is survived by his wife, Valerie Epps, his brother, Larry Nathanson, his daughter, Katherine Nathanson (a professor at the Penn Medicine Abramson Cancer Center), two sons, and seven grandchildren.