Pitt marks 50th anniversary of its Salk polio vaccine with reunion, scientific symposium

PITTSBURGH, March 29 The development of the Salk polio vaccine at the University of Pittsburgh represents one of the most important milestones in medical history. To commemorate the achievements of Jonas Salk, M.D., and his team of Pitt researchers and pay tribute to the people of the Pittsburgh community whose involvement was critical to the success of the endeavor, the University is hosting two events celebrating the 50th anniversary of the April 12, 1955, announcement that declared the vaccine "safe, effective and potent" and ushered in a new era of hope that polio could be conquered.

A community celebration on April 10 will recognize Pittsburgh's own and the nation's first "Polio Pioneers" the polio victims, who, in 1953, were the first to receive the vaccine; the 15,000, mostly school children, who rolled up their sleeves (some with tearful reluctance) to be inoculated in local field trials; and the many medical professionals, laboratory staff, caregivers and volunteers who during those years devoted their lives to the effort. Together, their involvement paved the way for the largest U.S. clinical trial ever to be conducted, with 1.8 million children from 44 states taking part. Making a special appearance will be Mickey Rooney, who was one of Hollywood's most ardent champions for the March of Dimes (known then as the National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis or NFIP) and made passionate appeals to the American public to give their nickels and dimes to support polio research, a cause that was principally supported by the NFIP.

A two-day scientific symposium will feature Julius Youngner, Sc.D., distinguished service professor emeritus of molecular genetics and biochemistry at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, the only surviving scientist from Salk's core research team; and David L. Heymann, M.D., who leads the worldwide polio eradication effort for the World Health Organization. Other internationally recognized researchers


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