Major Initiatives

The Natinal Shingles Foundation, founded in 1991, is the world's only nonprofit organization solely combating the varicella-zoster virus (VZV) and VZV infections— including chickenpox, shingles and post-herpetic neuralgia (PHN)—through research and education. The Foundation's primary activities to date include:
  • Sponsorship of international scientific conferences, symposia, and roundtables:
- "The First International Conference on the Varicella-Zoster Virus," held in October 1991 in Harriman, N.Y., launched the Foundation and established its priorities;

- A May 1993 workshop in Bethesda, Md., was the first, large-scale gathering of worldwide, multidisciplinary VZV experts. It focused attention on post-herpetic neuralgia (PHN) pain and was sponsored in conjunction with several institutes of the National Institutes of Health;

- "The Second International Conference on the Varicella-Zoster Virus," held in July 1994 in Paris, France, generated worldwide attention on VZV and launched the Foundation in Europe;

- "The Third International Conference on the Varicella-Zoster Virus," which took place in March 1997 in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla., was sponsored in partnership with Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons. The conference marked several important "firsts" for the Foundation, including the offer of continuing medical education credit (CME) from Columbia for conference attendees;

- "The Conference on VZV & the Immunocompromised Patient" was sponsored with Columbia University in January 2000. It focused the scientific community's attention on the impact and treatment of VZV on individuals who are immuno-
compromised due to HIV/AIDS infection, cancer, transplantation and age; and,

- "The Fourth International Conference on Varicella, Herpes Zoster and Post-Herpetic Neuralgia," cosponsored with Columbia University, took place in March 2001, in La Jolla, California. The conference focused on the current and future potential of vaccine technology in the prevention of varicella and zoster, and new insights into zoster pain and PHN treatment.

  • Provision of twelve, two-year research fellowships totaling $1.25 million to: investigate the reasons for the virus’ reemergence; develop new vaccines to prevent chickenpox and shingles in the immunocompromised; and seek out new treatments for PHN pain.

  • Organization of a scientific working group to study the feasibility and desirability of universal chickenpox vaccination throughout Europe.

  • Establishment of the VZVRF Ganglia Bank at Columbia University, which will provide scientists with human tissue samples for their VZV studies.

  • Development of educational materials for scientists and physicians, including: a brochure on the diagnosis and management of shingles and PHN; continuing medical education (CME) courses; and the proceedings of the Foundation’s scientific conferences.

  • Creation of educational materials for the general public, including booklets on the chickenpox vaccine, and on shingles and PHN.

  • Sponsorship of public health forums on VZV infections.

  • Production of television and radio public service announcements to generate awareness of the signs and symptoms, and the potential severity, of shingles and PHN.

  • Creation of the VZV Newsbureau, an ongoing effort to generate media awareness and coverage of VZV.

  • Establishment of the VZVRF Scientific Achievement award, honoring those who have made significant contributions to the study of the varicella-zoster virus.

Recipients of this award to date have included:

Thomas H. Weller, M.D., professor emeritus at the Harvard School of Public Health and a 1954 Nobel Laureate. Dr. Weller first isolated the varicella-zoster virus.

Gertrude B. Elion, D.Sc., scientist emeritus at Glaxo Wellcome Inc. and a 1988 Nobel Laureate. Dr. Elion developed the first antiviral therapy for shingles.

Michiaki Takahashi, M.D., D.M.Sc., professor emeritus of Osaka University. Dr. Takahashi developed the chickenpox vaccine.

R.E. Hope-Simpson, OBE, FRCGP, a British general practitioner who definitively concluded that shingles was caused by a reactivation of latent varicella (chickenpox) virus.

Anne A. Gershon, M.D., professor of pediatrics of Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons. Dr. Gershon was honored for her important work in all aspects of VZV research, and for her key role in the founding of VZVRF.