Hilary Koprowski, Developed Live-Virus Polio Vaccine, Dies at 96

6

It was a brew to rival any in “Macbeth.” The main ingredients were rat brain and a fearsome, carefully cultivated virus.


In his laboratory in Pearl River, N.Y., 20 miles north of Manhattan, Dr. Hilary Koprowski macerated the ingredients in an ordinary kitchen blender one January day in 1948. He poured the result — thick, cold, gray and greasy — into a beaker, lifted it to his lips and drank. It tasted, he later said, like cod liver oil.

With that sip, Dr. Koprowski, a virologist who died on April 11 at 96, inoculated himself against polio, years before the vaccines of Jonas Salk and Albert Sabin.

Dr. Koprowski was one of the world’s foremost biomedical researchers, helping usher in a spate of innovations, including a safer, less painful and more effective rabiesvaccine that remains widely used.

But his most noteworthy innovation — developing the first viable vaccine against polio and testing it successfully on humans — is far less well known. It has long been eclipsed in public memory by the triumphs of Salk, whose injectable vaccine was introduced in 1955, and Sabin, whose oral vaccine was introduced in stages in the early 1960s.

“Koprowski’s was the first serious scientific attempt at a live-virus polio vaccine,” said the historian David M. Oshinsky, whose 2005 book, “Polio: An American Story,” chronicles the race to pre-empt the disease. “Jonas Salk is a god in America, Albert Sabin’s got a ton of publicity, and Hilary Koprowski, who really should be part of that trinity, is the forgotten man.”

Written By: Margalit Fox
continue to source article at nytimes.com

6 COMMENTS

  1. I was eight when the vaccine came to our council estate. I went down to the district nurses’ centre with our doctor’s son, and we queued up with hundreds of other kids for the injection (The UK was a democracy in those days, and doctor’s sons got no privileges over the rest of the working class).

    Lots of boys in school had become crippled from polio, and people were dropping like flies. The injection of course was Salk’s work, but anyone involved in developing the vaccine deserves the unlimited thanks and praise of everyone on earth.

    To this day I can remember the relief I felt when the needle went in. No more fear of being crippled or spending the rest of my life in a wheelchair or an iron lung. I was safe at last! I didn’t even mind that the nurse scratched the bone in my arm with the needle.

    • In reply to #5 by Kevin Murrell:

      I was eight when the vaccine came to our council estate. I went down to the district nurses’ centre with our doctor’s son, and we queued up with hundreds of other kids for the injection (The UK was a democracy in those days, and doctor’s sons got no privileges over the rest of the working class).

      Lots of boys in school had become crippled from polio, and people were dropping like flies. The injection of course was Salk’s work, but anyone involved in developing the vaccine deserves the unlimited thanks and praise of everyone on earth.

      To this day I can remember the relief I felt when the needle went in. No more fear of being crippled or spending the rest of my life in a wheelchair or an iron lung. I was safe at last! I didn’t even mind that the nurse scratched the bone in my arm with the needle.

      I got the sugar cube version in 1967 although I must admit I didn’t know of anybody with Polio, probably as a result of the injections right enough. Mass vaccinations and improvements in water treatment are probably the two most important factors in making us longer lived as a society so hats off to anyone who advances our ability to control those horrible diseases that used to cripple and kill people in vast numbers.

Leave a Reply