Sunday, July 29, 2012

Baruch Samuel Blumberg: 28th July

Baruch Samuel  Blumberg (July 28, 1925 – April 5, 2011) was an American doctor and co-recipient of the 1976 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine .

The Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine 1976 was awarded jointly to Baruch S. Blumberg and D. Carleton Gajdusek "for their discoveries concerning new mechanisms for the origin and dissemination of infectious diseases"

Blumberg identified the Hepatitis B virus, and later developed its diagnostic test and vaccine.
His birthday is being observed as "World Hepatitis Day" (Read more)

Read the biography of Blumeberg

Read the obituary published in the "New Scientist" , after the death of this great scientist.
The life and times of a vaccine pioneer

15:49 - 6 April 2011
Roger Highfield, editor of New Scientist magazine

Baruch (Barry) Blumberg, the inventor of the world's first successful anticancer vaccine, has died aged 86.

His lifelong quest to fight the hepatitis B virus earned him a Nobel prize and the resulting vaccine prevented tens of millions of deaths from hepatitis and liver cancer.

I first met Barry in Oxford in the early 1990s, when he was the master of the university's Balliol College.

Late one night I had escorted his daughter Anne back to the college where I was greeted at the door by Barry, who was wearing only pyjamas and a mackintosh.

Typical of his warm and unpretentious demeanour, he immediately invited me in for a chat and a glass of whisky.

I would come to discover over the years that Barry was a truly extraordinary individual: an inspirational scientist, who had not only changed lives but saved them - tens of millions of them; a hard worker, who never retired; a person who was unceasingly curious about just about anything; and someone who was always fun to be with and enjoyed the support of a big, close, loving family.

Barry was born in Brooklyn, New York, in the 1920s, just before the economic depression in 1929. When his family moved to Queens he turned the basement of his parents' house into a laboratory.

At age 17, during the second world war, he was enlisted into the navy, which sent him to do a physics degree at Union College in upstate New York before he served as a deck officer on amphibious ships.

After the war Barry retrained as a doctor, working in Bellevue Hospital in lower New York ("Scenes on the wards were sometimes reminiscent of Hogarth's woodcuts of the public institutions of 18th-century London") before becoming interested in research.

Barry and his team discovered the hepatitis B virus. The team invented (and the Fox Chase Cancer Center patented) the vaccine in 1969, but it would take some time before they could interest a pharmaceutical company to help develop and produce it.

Where national hepatitis vaccination programmes have been introduced the impact has been dramatic. In China the prevalence fell from around 15 per cent to fewer than 1 per cent in less than a decade. In Taiwan, the incidence of the cancer fell by about two-thirds after vaccination was introduced in the early 1980s.

In 1976 Barry was awarded the Nobel prize for medicine. Since then he has written up his exploits in Hepatitis B: The hunt for a killer virus, was senior adviser to the president of Fox Chase Cancer Center in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and president of the American Philosophical Society.

Barry was the founding director of NASA's Astrobiology Institute, which focused on study of the origin, distribution, evolution and future of life on Earth and in the cosmos. As he remarked, it was "no mean programme. It addressed the heavy questions."

Barry died suddenly yesterday in California, where he had travelled to be at a NASA meeting.

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