PICTURE OF JENNER, INVENTOR OF FIRST VACCINE.
HEPATITIS B VACCINE INVENTOR:
Dr. Baruch Samuel Blumberg
The research, discoveries and vision of Nobel laureate Baruch S. Blumberg, M.D., Ph.D., have had a far-reaching impact on public health around the globe. He has been responsible for major insights into the pathogenesis and prevention of hepatitis B infection-endemic in many populous nations, especially in Asia and Africa-and the fatal liver diseases associated with it. These include primary cancer of the liver, or primary hepatocellular carcinoma: one of the world’s three most deadly cancers, with death often occurring less than a year after diagnosis. Worldwide, primary liver cancer is the sixth most common cancer in men and the eleventh most common cancer in women. Blumberg identified the Hepatitis B virus, and later developed the diagnostic test and vaccine for it.
Dr. Blumberg was awarded Nobel Prize in 1976 in Physiology or Medicine. He shared the Nobel Prize with D. Carleton Gajdusek. The Nobel Prize was awarded for “discoveries concerning new mechanisms for the origin and dissemination of infectious diseases” and specifically, for the discovery of the hepatitis B virus.
In full Baruch Samuel Blumberg born in Brooklyn, New York, on July 28, 1925. Blumberg first attended Far Rockaway High School in the early 40s. He the attended Union College in Schenectady, NY and graduated in Physics with honors in 1945. He then entered the graduate program in mathematics at Columbia University but his interests turned to medicine and he enrolled at Columbia’s College of Physicians and Surgeons, from which he received his M.D. in 1951. He remained at Columbia Presbyterian Medical Center for the next four years, first as a resident and then as an intern.
As a medical student, he spent one summer at a mining company hospital in Surinam, South America, where he got his first taste of clinical research. Later, as an intern and assistant resident at New York City’s Bellevue Hospital, he experienced all the demands of patient care under crowded urban conditions. After a clinical fellowship at Columbia Presbyterian Medical Center, he went to England to earn his doctoral degree at Oxford’s Balliol College and earn his Ph.D. degree in biochemistry from Oxford University in 1957.
In 1957 he returned to the United States to join the National Institutes of Health and In 1960 he became chief of the Geographic Medicine and Genetics Section of the U.S. National Institutes for Health, in Maryland and hold this position until 1964. In 1964 he was appointed associate director for clinical research at the Institute for Cancer Research (later named the Fox Chase Cancer Center) in Philadelphia.
In the early 1960s Blumberg was examining blood samples from widely diverse populations in an attempt to determine why the members of different ethnic and national groups vary widely in their responses and susceptibility to disease. In 1963 he discovered in the blood serum of an Australian aborigine an antigen that he later (1967) determined to be part of a virus that causes hepatitis B, the most severe form of hepatitis. The discovery of this so-called Australian antigen, which causes the body to produce antibody responses to the virus, made it possible to screen blood donors for possible hepatitis B transmission. Further research indicated that the body’s development of antibody against the Australian antigen was protective against further infection with the virus itself. In 1982 a safe and effective vaccine utilizing Australian antigen was made commercially available in the United States.
In 1977 he became professor of medicine, human genetics, and anthropology at the University of Pennsylvania. In 1989 he returned to Oxford to become master of Balliol College, a position that he held until 1994. Upon his return to the United States, he resumed his post at the Fox Chase Cancer Center, gaining the title Distinguished Scientist, and continued to teach as professor of medicine and anthropology at the University of Pennsylvania.
In 1993, he and his co-inventor, Dr. Irving Millman, were elected to the National Inventors Hall of Fame for their invention of the hepatitis B vaccine and the diagnostic test for hepatitis B. He has taught medical anthropology at the University of Pennsylvania and elsewhere, and has been a visiting professor in India (Bangalore), Singapore, University of Kentucky (Lexington), Indiana University (Bloomington), the University of Otago, Dunedin, New Zealand, and Stanford University.
In May 1999 Blumberg was appointed director of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) Astrobiology Institute. He held several different positions while at NASA, where he remained until 2004.
(The writer is a member of Hepatitis Foundation of Tripura, Agartala)
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B Jul 28 1925 Vaccine Against Viral Hepatitis and Process; Process of Viral Diagnosis and ReagentVaccine for Hepatitis BPatent Number(s) 3,636,191; 3,872,225Inducted 1993Baruch Blumberg discovered an antigen in 1963 that detected the presence of hepatitis B in blood samples. Hepatitis B is a potentially fatal disease often transmitted through blood transfusions. This hepatitis antigen, 'the Australia Antigen,' was found frequently in the blood serum of viral hepatitis sufferers. The antigen was named for an aborigine blood sample that reacted with an antibody in the serum of an American hemophilia patient. Working with Blumberg, microbiologist Irving Millman developed a test that identified hepatitis B in blood samples. The blood test screened out carriers of this infectious disease, and after blood banks began using the test in 1971, hepatitis B after blood transfusions decreased by 25 percent. Invention ImpactThe test also became the first method for screening blood donations for the hepatitis B virus. Together, Blumberg and Millman developed a vaccine against the virus. This vaccine protects people exposed to hepatitis B from infection and has been administered to millions, particularly in Asia and Africa. Since hepatitis B is an unknown factor associated with the development of liver cancer, the vaccine was the first against a major form of cancer. Inventor BioBorn in New York City, Baruch Blumberg graduated from Far Rockaway High School then joined the Navy, which assigned him to study physics at Union College in Schenectady, New York (B.S. 1946). He has an M.D., 1951, from Columbia University, and a Ph.D. in biochemistry, 1957, from Balliol College at Oxford University. He worked at the National Institutes of Health from 1957 to 1964 then joined Fox Chase Cancer Center and was also appointed professor of medicine and anthropology at the University of Pennsylvania. Blumberg shared the Nobel Prize in Medicine and Physiology in 1976. In 1989, he became Master of Balliol College at Oxford while maintaining a position at Fox Chase Cancer Center. Irving Millman was born in New York City. He received a B.S. in 1948 from City College in New York, an M.S. in 1951 from the University of Kentucky, and a Ph.D. in 1954 from the Northwestern University Medical School, where he was appointed assistant professor. He joined Fox in 1967 after having previously held positions with Armour & Company, the Public Health Research Institute of the City of New York Inc., and the Merck Institute for Therapeutic Research. He is an adjunct professor of biology at Hahnemann University in Philadelphia. He has been a member of the New York Academy of Sciences, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and the American Society of Microbiology and is a fellow of the American Academy of Microbiology.
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