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Salk, Jonas


SALK, JONAS (1914–1995), U.S. virologist. Salk was born in New York City, graduating in medicine from New York University Medical School (1939). Pursuing his commitment as a student to killed antiviral vaccination, he worked on influenza virus vaccines at the University of Michigan with Thomas Francis before moving to the University of Pittsburgh in 1947, where he became director of viral research. Exploiting Enders' 1949 discovery of methods for growing poliomyelitis virus in tissue culture, Salk developed an inactivated anti-polio virus vaccine given by intramuscular injection. Clinical trials of the vaccine in the U.S. and Canada showed a dramatic fall of over 90% in the incidence of the polio virus-induced disease, paralytic poliomyelitis, by 1955. Initial problems of infectious virus persistence in one commercial vaccine preparation were overcome, and vaccination with Salk vaccine was adopted routinely in the U.S. and other countries. Salk refused to profit financially from his vaccine. The efficacy of a killed virus vaccine led to the development of similar vaccines against other viruses. Albert *Sabin's alternative oral live-virus antipolio vaccine, with the prospect of conferring lifelong immunity, supplanted the Salk vaccine in the U.S. and other countries, at least temporarily. The different approaches to antipolio vaccination in 1963 led to intense personal and general controversy. Salk founded the Institute for Biological Sciences named for him in La Jolla, California, where he continued his research, including attempts to develop an anti-hiv virus. His honors included the Lasker award for clinical medical research (1956), the U.S. Order of Merit, and a Congressional Gold Medal.

[Michael Denman (2nd ed.)]

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