Alexis Shelokov, who studied the polio virus at the NIH in the 1950s and was a powerful scientific force in what would become the famed NIAID Laboratory of Infectious Diseases in Building 7, died on December 12, 2016, in Dallas, Texas. He had a prolific scientific career that took him around the world.
With plans to travel to Swaziland and volunteer with the Baylor International Pediatric AIDS Initiative (BIPAI) and a desire to address issues related to health disparities in the treatment of HIV/AIDS, I began navigating the unfamiliar terrain of life after college.
In his recent State of the Union address, President Barack Obama called America to action and asserted that our researchers can find the cure for cancer, a sentiment that received a standing ovation. We believe that Obama is right.
The NIH is "one of America's great citadels of hope, not only for our people, but also for the world," said President Bill Clinton at the dedication of the Dale and Betty Bumpers Vaccine Research Center (VRC) on June 9, 1999.
Only one building was restricted during the 1951 NIH open house—Building 7, specially designed for infectious disease research. Children under 16 were not admitted. And there was only one demonstration: Dr. Karl Habel of NIH's National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) showed the special procedures necessary in the collecting and handling of material for research on and vaccine development for rickettsial diseases carried by ticks. In this photo, is Dr. Habel following his own advice?
The Ebola vaccine developed by Dr. Nancy Sullivan at NIAID is a Women’s History Month highlight: women developed the vaccine and coordinated and led the clinical trial, and a woman was the first volunteer to receive the vaccine. “That wasn’t planned, but it’s kind of remarkable,” said Sullivan. She explained her work to President Barack Obama in person.
“Know your enemy” describes the work of Dr. Sarah Branham (1888-1962). She dedicated much of her career to understanding meningitis, identifying different strains, and developing the effective tests and treatments for the disease in anti-serum and sulfa drugs.
In this September 1937 photo, Branham and technician Robert Forkish inoculate a mouse with meningococcus antiserum to determine whether it will protect against meningitis:
Long recognized as essential to global health, vaccines protect individuals and populations from contagion and the reappearance of eradicated diseases. Vaccination against deadly diseases prevents two to three million deaths worldwide every year, and there are significant economic benefits as well. In the United States, every dollar spent on the routine childhood immunization program saves society more than $16 in future costs.
As the international community continues to seek collaborative approaches to contain and eradicate the current Ebola outbreak in West Africa, we are reminded that these efforts are also an investment in our own public health. Only by defeating a virus at its source can we prevent infectious diseases from spreading to other countries.
The turn of the 20th century brought exponential advancements in technology and science. While intrepid explorers like Cook and Peary journeyed over the tundra and ice in search of the North Pole—at that time considered the final frontier of land exploration—the budding National Institutes of Health (NIH) was also journeying into the unknown with a charge to protect the public from organisms existing at the very edges of life.