Vaccine: Timeline of key events

Mouseover the event title for a more detailed description of the event (if available). To search for particular terms in the description of the event enter the term in the box below 'Event' on the table and press 'enter'. Alternatively use the dropdown lists to filter by Person, Place or Science. Click here to clear the filter.

Falkow was a microbiologist who made his scientific mark by showing how bacteria develop resistance to antibiotics. During the 1960s he demonstrated that bacteria could acquire resistance by swapping genetic material via plasmids, small microbial DNA molecules. Thereafter he focused his attention on how pathogens cause disease and in 1985 helped to identify a single genetic locus in Yersinia pseudotuberculosis, a Gram-negative bacteria, that accounts for its ability to infect cultured animal cells. He later showed that a sub-type of E. coli caused a life-threatening diarrhoea prevalent in many low-income countries. Known as the founder of molecular pathogenesis, Falkow's work paved the way to the development of new vaccines, including for whooping cough. He also helped to devise a uniform nomenclature for bacterial plasmids1934-01-24T00:00:00+0000Nicolle was a French bacteriologist who won the Nobel Prize in Medicine in 1903 for identifying lice as the transmission vector for epidemic typhus and by working out how tick fever is transmitted. He also helped discover the parasite responsible for toxoplasmosis, a common infection that is usually harmless but can cause serious problems in some people. Nicolle also developed a vaccine for Malta fever, a disease now called brucellosis.1936-02-28T00:00:00+0000An American physician and bacteriologist, Zinsser isolated the bacterium that causes typhus and developed a protective vaccine against it. In 1935 he published the book 'Rats, Live and History' in which he recounted the effects of typhus on mankind and the efforts to eradicate it. In the book he argued that disease was responsible for more deaths than war.1940-09-04T00:00:00+0000The breakthrough was made by Hubert Loring and Carlton Schwerdt. They managed to isolate the virus with 80% purity. The work paved the way for the team to create the first vaccine in August 1947. Schwerdt continued to improve the technique and by 1953 had managed to isolate 100% pure polio virus with Bachrach Howard, which paved the way for Jonas Salk to create a safe vaccine in 1955. 1947-01-10T00:00:00+0000The work was carried out by John Enders, Thomas Huckle Weller ad Frederick Chapman Robbins. They published their achievement in TH Weller, FC Robbins, JH Enders, 'Cultivation of poliomyelitis virus in cultures of human foreskin and embryonic tissues', Science, 109/2822 (1949), 85-7. The work paved the way for the two kinds of effective poliovirus vaccine, the inactivated poliovirus vaccine of Jonas E. Salk and the live oral polio vaccine of Albert B. Sabin. The three scientists received the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1954. 1949-01-28T00:00:00+0000The first polio vaccine, developed by Jonas Salk, was tested on children from Arsenal Elementary School in Pittsburg, Pennsylvania. Nearly 2 million children in 44 states were tested. The trial showed the vaccine to be effective. The vaccine radically reduced the number of polio victims around the world.1954-02-23T00:00:00+0000Goodpasture developed a method of culturing viruses in chicken embryos and fertilized chicken eggs. Before this viruses were grown in living tissues which could be contaminated by bacteria. Goodpasture's method laid the foundation for the development of vaccines for smallpox, yellow fever, typhus and chicken pox.1960-09-20T00:00:00+0000Created by Leonard Hayflick and Paul S Moorhead.1962-01-01T00:00:00+0000Developed by Samuel Katz and John F Enders, the vaccine would later be incorporated into the MMR, a combination vaccine against measles, mumps and rubella.1963-01-01T00:00:00+0000The vaccine was made by Maurice Hilleman using material taken from his daughter, Jeryl Lynn, when she suffered measles. The Jeryl strain of the mumps vaccine is still in use today and used in the MMR vaccine.1963-01-01T00:00:00+0000The vaccine, RA27/3 had been developed by a team headed by Stanley Plotkin.1969-01-01T00:00:00+0000Stanley was an American biochemist and virologist. In 1935 he managed to crystalise the tobacco virus, the causative agent of plant disease. This was a major breakthrough because prior to this no scientists had succeeded in finding out what viruses were. His work laid the foundation for other scientists, using x-ray diffraction, to work out the precise molecular structures and reproduction process of several viruses. During World War II he managed to purify several of the most common influenza viruses and developed a vaccine that was partly effective. In 1946 he shared the Nobel Prize for Chemistry for the 'preparation of enzymes and virus proteins in a pure form.' 1971-06-15T00:00:00+0000Theiler was a South African trained physician who specialised in infectious diseases. He is best known for helping to show that yellow fever is caused by a virus and his development of a safe and effective vaccine against the disease. This work he did in the 1930s while based at the International Health Division of the Rockefeller Foundation. His first vaccine was used by the French government to protect the residents of French territories in Western Africa. The second, an improved version that was launched in Brazil in 1938. Over 400 million doses of this vaccine was given out to people over the next 60 years. Theiler was awarded the Nobel Prize for Medicine in 1951 for his yellow fever vaccine. 1972-08-11T00:00:00+00001975-01-01T00:00:00+0000AU Bertland, AA Tytell, GP Lampson, E Buynak, 'Method for purifying hepatitis B antigen'm US Patent US4017360A. The patent was granted 12 April 1977.1975-05-14T00:00:00+0000WJ McAleer, EH Wamuth, 'Process for isolating hepatitis b antigen', US Patent 4024243. The patent was granted 17 May 1977.1975-06-16T00:00:00+0000The study carried out in 12 chimpanzees indicated the vaccine would be safe to test in humans, MR Hilleman, EB Buynak, RR Roehm, AA Tytell, AU Bertland, 'Purified and inactivated hepatitis vaccine: Progress Report', American Journal of Medical Sciences, 279/2 (1975), 401-4.1975-09-01T00:00:00+0000Conducted among 1,083 gay men in New York. Gay men were ten times more likely to get hepatitis B than the normal population. Men injected with the vaccine were found to be 75% less likely to get hepatitis B than those who didn't get the vaccine. The trial was done by Wolf Szmuness at New York Medical Center using the vaccine produced by Hilleman at Merck. 1978-01-01T00:00:00+0000The vaccine was developed by Alfred Prince in partnership with John Vnek. Together they devised easier and less expensive purification steps than those used by Merck. The new vaccine required a tenth of the dose than Merck's vaccine. All these measures helped reduce the cost of the vaccine, which was 50 cents per dose. This compared with $90 to $100 for 3 doses of the Merck plasma vaccine. The low cost vaccine was licensed to Cheil Division of Samsung, Korea, Wuhan Institute in China and the Ministry of Healthy in Burma. 1978-01-01T00:00:00+0000The patent was filed on the basis of work undertaken by Kenneth Murray. 1978-12-22T00:00:00+0000
Date Event People Places Sciences
24 Jan 1934Stanley Falkow was born in Albany, New York, USAFalkowGeorgetown University School of Medicine, University of Washington School of Medicine, Stanford UniversityAntimicrobial resistance, Plasmids, Vaccine
28 Feb 1936Charles J H Nicolle diedNicolle Vaccine
4 Sep 1940Hans Zinsser diedZinsserColumbia University, Stanford University, Harvard UniversityBacteriology, Vaccines
10 Jan 1947First time polio virus was isolatedLoring, SchwerdtStanford UniversityVaccine, Virology
28 Jan 1949Polio virus successfully grown on human embryonic cells in cultureEnders, Weller, RobbinsBoston Children's HospitalCell culture, Vaccine, Virology
23 Feb 1954Salk polio vaccine trial beganSalkUniversity of PittsburghVirology, Vaccine
20 Sep 1960Ernest Goodpasture diedGoodpastureHarvard UniversityVirology, Vaccine
1962WI-38 cell line developed - important to development of vaccinesHayflick, MoorheadWistar InstituteVaccine, Virology
1963 - 1963Development of first attentuated measles virus vaccineEnders, Katz Vaccine, Virology
1963Creation of first vaccine against mumpsHillemanMerck & CoVaccines, Virology
1969 - 1970First license approved in US and Europe for vaccine against rubella (German measles)PlotkinWistar InstituteVaccine, Virology
15 Jun 1971Wendell M Stanley diedStanleyRockefeller InstituteBiochemistry, Virology, Vaccine
11 Aug 1972Max Theiler diedTheiler Vaccine
1975Pasteur Institute scientists started to develop fractionation method to purify HBsAg from plasma to produce hepatitis B vaccineTiollaisPasteur InstituteVaccine
14 May 1975Merck filed US patent for technique to purify hepatitis B antigenBertland, Tytell, Lampson, BuynakMerckVaccine
16 Jun 1975Merck filed US patent for process to isolate hepatitis B antigenMcAleer, WasmuthMerckVaccine
Sep 1975Merck reported positive results from chimpanzee trials with hepatitis B vaccine containing inactivated HBsAg antigenHilleman, Buynak, Roehm, Tytell, BertlandMerckVaccine
1978 - 1980First clinical trials with plasma vaccine against hepatitis BSzmuness, HillemanNew York Medical CenterVaccine
1978 - 1986Low-cost plasma hepatitis B vaccine developedPrince, VnekNew York Blood CenterVaccine
Dec 1978Biogen filed preliminary UK patent for technique to clone hepatitis B DNA and antigensKenneth MurrayBiogen, University of EdinburghRecombinant DNA, Vaccine

24 Jan 1934

Stanley Falkow was born in Albany, New York, USA

28 Feb 1936

Charles J H Nicolle died

4 Sep 1940

Hans Zinsser died

10 Jan 1947

First time polio virus was isolated

28 Jan 1949

Polio virus successfully grown on human embryonic cells in culture

23 Feb 1954

Salk polio vaccine trial began

20 Sep 1960

Ernest Goodpasture died


WI-38 cell line developed - important to development of vaccines

1963 - 1963

Development of first attentuated measles virus vaccine


Creation of first vaccine against mumps

1969 - 1970

First license approved in US and Europe for vaccine against rubella (German measles)

15 Jun 1971

Wendell M Stanley died

11 Aug 1972

Max Theiler died


Pasteur Institute scientists started to develop fractionation method to purify HBsAg from plasma to produce hepatitis B vaccine

14 May 1975

Merck filed US patent for technique to purify hepatitis B antigen

16 Jun 1975

Merck filed US patent for process to isolate hepatitis B antigen

Sep 1975

Merck reported positive results from chimpanzee trials with hepatitis B vaccine containing inactivated HBsAg antigen

1978 - 1980

First clinical trials with plasma vaccine against hepatitis B

1978 - 1986

Low-cost plasma hepatitis B vaccine developed

Dec 1978

Biogen filed preliminary UK patent for technique to clone hepatitis B DNA and antigens