Jonas Salk (born New York City, October 28, 1914 – June 23, 1995) was an American medical researcher and virologist, best known for his development of the first polio vaccine. While attending New York University School of Medicine, Salk stood out from his peers not just because of his academic prowess, but because he chose to do medical research.
In 1963 he founded the Jonas Salk Institute for Biological Studies, a center devoted solely for medical and scientific research. His last years were devoted to finding a vaccine against AIDS.
On March 26, 1953, American medical researcher Dr. Jonas Salk announces on a national radio show that he has successfully tested a vaccine against poliomyelitis, the virus that causes the crippling disease of polio.
the annual number of cases dropped to a dozen or so, sometimes fewer. In 1969 not a single death from polio was reported in the nation, the first such year on record, and now the disease is on the verge of being eradicated worldwide.
in 1938 he began working with microbiologist Thomas Francis, Jr., who was looking for an influenza vaccine. They developed one that was used in the armed forces during World War II.
Salk also engaged in research to develop a vaccine for more recent plague, AIDS. To further this research, he co-founded The Immune Response Corporation, to search for a vaccine, and patented Remune, an immune-based therapy.
The live-virus vaccine developed by Dr. Albert Sabin (1906–1993) contained a mutant (altered, different) form of the polio virus, called an avirulent virus. This means it was not able to harm the body's defenses. The live-virus vaccine had advantages over the killed-virus vaccine. It could be administered orally (through the mouth) rather than by injection, and one dosage gave permanent immunity.
President Eisenhower praised Dr. Salk as a "benefactor of mankind."
The biggest problem with the Salk vaccine was that improper production of the vaccine by some drug companies resulted in the vaccine being contaminated with live polio virus. Many hundreds of children died or became extremely ill because of this.
Salk's procedure, first attempted unsuccessfully by American Maurice Brodie in the 1930s, was to kill several strains of the virus and then inject the benign viruses into a healthy person's bloodstream.
Salk declined to have his vaccine patented, believing that royalties and profits would raise the cost and make the medicine unavailable to the poor. The vaccine was approved for public use on 12 April 1955.
In 1952 he first innoculated volunteers, including himself, his wife, and their three sons, with a polio vaccine made from this killed virus. Everyone who received the test vaccine began producing antibodies to the disease, yet no one became ill.
In the four years before the vaccine became available in 1955, an average of 40,000 polio cases per year were reported in the United States. By 1961 the number of reported cases had dropped by 97%.
Dr. Jonas Salk's polio vaccine worked. The vaccine turned a disease that once horrified America into a memory.
Human trials of the polio vaccine effectively protected the subject from the polio virus. When news of the discovery was made public on April 12, 1955, Salk was hailed as a miracle worker.