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In Memoriam: Norman Letvin, MD

Photo by Angela Alberti

The HMS flag is at half-staff today in memory of Norman Letvin, MD, professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School and chief of the Division of Viral Pathogenesis at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. Letvin was also the director of the Non-Human Primate Research Program at the NIH Vaccine Research Center.

He died May 28, 2012 at Brigham and Women’s Hospital of pancreatic cancer. He was 62.

Letvin received his BA from Harvard College and his MD from Harvard Medical School in 1975.  He pursued postgraduate training at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania and returned to Boston in 1977 as a senior resident in medicine at Massachusetts General Hospital

In 1978, Letvin joined the laboratory of Baruj Benacerraf to begin his life-long study of the immune system, and its relationship to cause and prevention of disease.  From 1982-1994, he was chair of the Division of Immunology at the New England Regional Primate Center of Harvard Medical School, and became chief of the Division of Viral Pathogenesis at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in 1994.

Letvin was one of the most influential leaders in the world in the field of AIDS research, and was a major contributor to the quest to make a vaccine against AIDS. He was a world authority of the biology of retrovirus infections in non-human primates and was the discoverer of the simian immunodeficiency virus (SIV) and the AIDS-like disease that it causes in rhesus macaques. He used the SIV model to make progress in understanding of the immunopathogenesis of AIDS.

Letvin is survived by his wife, Marion, and his four children, Andrea, Rebecca, Elizabeth and Adam.

The funeral service was private. A memorial service will be held in the fall. Donations can be made to Interlochen Arts Camp or the Harvard-Radcliffe Orchestra.