Pioneering College of Medicine researcher John Kreider dies

February 01, 2010

Human papilloma virus research contributed to development of cervical cancer vaccines

A Penn State College of Medicine researcher whose life's work contributed to the development of the world’s first cervical cancer vaccine, has died.

John W. Kreider, professor emeritus of pathology and microbiology, and the first scientist to be funded by the Jake Gittlen Cancer Research Foundation at the College of Medicine, died Friday from complications related to kidney failure. He was 72 years old.

Kreider was a pioneering cancer researcher who specialized in the study of the human papilloma virus (HPV). The virus is a leading cause of cervical cancer, which kills more than 4,000 women in the United States each year according to the American Cancer Society.

Kreider received countless research grants from federal and private agencies and held numerous patents with his long-time collaborator, the late Mary K. Howett. Their unprecedented work led to the discovery of a method for propagating human papilloma viruses which contributed to the development of the HPV vaccine Gardasil, released by Merck Pharmaceutical Company in 2006. He and Howett continued their collaborative efforts through the private biotech company Renaissance Scientific Inc., until that company’s dissolution in 2009.

At the time of his death, plans were being finalized to install a permanent historical marker on the campus of Penn State Milton S. Hershey Medical Center to commemorate the research contributions Kreider, Howett and their scientific colleagues made to the field of cervical cancer prevention.

Kreider served for over 25 years as a professor of pathology and microbiology at the College of Medicine. He received joint appointments to the Departments of Pathology and Microbiology in 1973. He served as chief of the Division of Experimental Pathology from 1975 to 1997. He served as a founding member and director of the Jake Gittlen Cancer Research Foundation.

“In the last conversation I had with John, I told him that my dad had the greatest influence on the first half of my life,” said Warren Gittlen, philanthropist and founder of the Jake Gittlen Cancer Research Foundation. “but during the last 40 years my greatest influence was John and I wanted him to know that. I don’t know what I would have done or where the Gittlen Research Foundation would be today if I hadn’t met John Kreider.”

Kreider distinguished himself as both a research and educator. He received the Teaching Excellence Award, presented by second-year medical students, 11 times between 1980 and 1992. He was awarded the Pennsylvania State University Faculty Scholar Medal for Outstanding Achievement in Health and Life Sciences in 1990. He was the author of over 150 peer-reviewed articles.

Kreider is survived by his devoted wife of 46 years Kathleen Ann Kreider of Palmyra, Pa.; two sons, Eric W. and his wife Tammy of Grantville, Pa.; and Ted W., his wife Maggie and their son James, of Richmond, Vt.; brother-in-law Roger Bowman and his daughter Rebecca of Ormond Beach, Fla.; numerous cousins and their families; and his beloved dog Misty.

A gathering to commemorate Kreider’s life and work is planned by Kreider’s family and former colleagues. It is scheduled for Sunday at 11 a.m. in Lecture Room A at the College of Medicine in Hershey.

More information about Kreider’s scientific work can be found at and online.

  • Kreider, right, poses for a 1970’s era photo with philanthropist Warren Gittlen, founder of the Jake Gittlen Cancer Research Foundation. Kreider was first scientist funded by the Gittlen Foundation.

    IMAGE: Penn State College of Medicine

(Media Contacts)

Last Updated October 17, 2019