Gotschlich’s primary interest is in a group of bacteria responsible for such diseases as meningitis, gonorrhea, and streptococcal infection. He collaborated in the development of meningitis vaccines that have been used successfully in major epidemic areas of the world.
From 1966 to 1968, while serving as a captain in the Medical Corps at the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research, Gotschlich was part of a team that developed a purified polysaccharide (complex carbohydrate) vaccine against group C meningitis, the strain that was a chronic problem at American military recruit camps. In 1970, the vaccine was approved for use with all recruits, and since then the disease has virtually disappeared from military bases. He also helped develop a vaccine against group A meningitis that proved more than 90 percent effective in controlled trials during epidemics in Egypt, Sudan, and Finland.
Gotschlich received his M.D. from the New York University School of Medicine in 1959. He interned at Bellevue Hospital in New York before joining The Rockefeller University’s Laboratory of Bacteriology and Immunology in 1960 under the leadership of Maclyn McCarty and Rebecca C. Lancefield. He was promoted to professor and senior physician at The Rockefeller University Hospital in 1978. From 1996 to 2005 he served as the hospital’s vice president for medical sciences.
Gotschlich’s contributions to meningitis research have earned him numerous awards, including the 1978 Albert Lasker Clinical Medical Research Award. He is a member of the National Academy of Sciences and the National Academy of Medicine.