Developing the first rotavirus vaccine



Rotaviruses are the most common cause of severe childhood diarrhea worldwide. They are responsible for up to 500,000 deaths each year External link. To reduce their deadly effect, scientists needed to better understand the virus and apply that knowledge to developing a vaccine.


IRP researchers led by Albert Kapikian, M.D., first identified human rotavirus in the United States in 1974. The team defined the virus’ mode of transmission and pinpointed the proteins critical for triggering an immune response. Their efforts, in partnership with Wyeth-Ayerst Laboratories, led to the development, testing, and 1998 FDA approval of RotaShield, the first rotavirus vaccine.


While RotaShield is no longer in use, the researchers’ decades-long effort carried basic research results all the way through to the development of a vaccine. The knowledge derived from their process paved the way for the creation of second-generation rotavirus vaccines, which are now being licensed for use in low-income countries.


Kapikian AZ, Kim HW, Wyatt RG, Rodriguez WJ, Ross S, Cline WL, Parrott RH, Chanock RM. (1974). Reoviruslike agent in stools: association with infantile diarrhea and development of serologic tests. Science. 185(4156), 1049-53.

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This page was last updated on Friday, August 11, 2023