Dr. Samuel L. Katz is the Wilburt Cornell Davison Professor and chairman emeritus of paediatrics at Duke University. The fifth annual $100,000 Pollin Prize, recognizes outstanding achievement in biomedical or public health research resulting in important improvements to the health of children.

Early in his career, Dr. Katz became fascinated with the measles virus and was instrumental in developing a vaccine for the disease using cell-culture techniques and egg inoculations. In fact, after fastidiously preparing safety-tested material for use in humans, he first inoculated himself and then his colleagues in the laboratory.

After a series of clinical trials proved the vaccine effective and safe, it was licensed in 1963; by 1968 the incidence of measles in the United States plummeted to less than 10 percent. Once the vaccine was proven to be effective domestically, Dr. Katz was eager to reduce the spread of measles abroad, especially in countries where measles had mortality rates of 5–20 percent. He travelled to Nigeria and conducted studies which once again proved the vaccine to be safe and effective, even in infants who were suffering from malnutrition, malaria and other infections.

Encouraged by the results of these studies, the World Health Organization (WHO) later began its Expanded Program on Immunization in 1978, and included the measles vaccine with vaccines for diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis, polio and BCG (for tuberculosis). At that time, the WHO estimated that, prior to vaccine availability, 6–8 million children per year died of measles, most in the developing world. By 2005, the vaccine had reduced the number of worldwide measles deaths to less than 500,000.

MEDICA.de; Source: NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital