From Refugee to Philanthropist: Jan Vilcek Tells It All
Love and Science, a memoir by our president and co-founder Jan Vilcek, hits bookshelves today! Published by Seven Stories Press, Jan tells two intertwined stories: The first an illuminating tale of scientific discovery, and the second, a story of fate and daring that would lead to his immigration to America.
Jan’s story starts in the former Czechoslovakia, where, as a Jewish child during the second world war, he went into hiding to survive the threat of deportation to an extermination camp. Afterward, during the political turmoil caused by the communist takeover, he completed medical school in Bratislava and embarked on a career in virology and immunology, two nascent fields whose importance were, at the time, unfathomable. He would also meet and marry Marica Gerhath, an art historian nurturing a taste for Western fashion and "decadent" modernist art.
In search of personal and professional freedom, the couple defected and immigrated to New York City in 1965. Arriving as penniless political refugees, they nevertheless built successful careers: Marica at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and Jan at the NYU Medical School.
There, Jan’s attempts to create a cure for cancer using interferon and TNF blockers fell short, but ultimately led to the development of Remicade, the first in a new class of treatments for autoimmune diseases, and today, one of the world’s highest-grossing drugs—placing them in a position of unexpected material wealth.
Along the way, Jan and Marica tried shrimp for the first time, watched the Iron Curtain come down, and established the Vilcek Foundation to honor the many immigrants who, like them, risked everything for an opportunity to live up to their potential.
Pick up a copy of Love and Science, published by Seven Stories Press, at your local bookstore or online to read more about their journey and accomplishments—we hope you will find their story as interesting and inspiring as we did. And if you’ve already enjoyed the book, help us spread the word by sharing the news on social media or leaving a review on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Goodreads, or a website of your choice!
A Message from Jan and Marica Vilcek
Our founders arrived as penniless refugees over fifty years ago, but with the kindness and opportunity they received in the United States, they went on to accomplish great things in biomedical science and art history. Read their statement on the recent executive order imposing a travel ban.