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Making the first polio vaccine using WI-38

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Advocating the use of WI-38 in polio vaccine production
Leonard Hayflick Scientist
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I finally did get an invitation. My invitation was to come to the meeting and simply give a, I don't know, a five-minute or a ten-minute summary of my work – something, a kind of, a rather trivial role in this two or three-day conference, in which other personalities were given a half-hour to speak. I had the opportunity to decline the invitation, but that would have been cutting my nose off to spite my face, and so I went to the meeting. And in that five or eight minute period, which I think occurred possibly on the last day, pretty much gave them hell, and said, 'The resolution is before your eyes'. After two days of discussing this serious drama, I should say, parenthetically, that the Americans stopped polio production. Prior to this meeting, during this meeting, and I think for several months afterwards, all polio vaccine production ceased. I don't recall what happened in Europe. And since I wasn't... I was an academic and not attached to a company, the company representatives at that meeting, of which there were dozens, if not more than 100, couldn't raise their voices, because after all, their products must pass through the hands of Rod Murray and his staff. And so they were very meek, in respect to what they believed, and what they believed was that WI-38 was the answer.

Well, I had nothing to lose. I had no commercial connections. I... Hilary Koprowski was my boss. He was also promoting this idea, I should say, very actively, and I just decided I'm going to tell it like it is, and I was pretty forthright in... and not suggesting but urging them to stop using primary monkey kidney and to start using WI-38.

Leonard Hayflick (b. 1928), the recipient of several research prizes and awards, including the 1991 Sandoz Prize for Gerontological Research, is known for his research in cell biology, virus vaccine development, and mycoplasmology. He also has studied the ageing process for more than thirty years. Hayflick is known for discovering that human cells divide for a limited number of times in vitro (refuting the contention by Alexis Carrel that normal body cells are immortal), which is known as the Hayflick limit, as well as developing the first normal human diploid cell strains for studies on human ageing and for research use throughout the world. He also made the first oral polio vaccine produced in a continuously propogated cell strain - work which contributed to significant virus vaccine development.

Listeners: Christopher Sykes

Christopher Sykes is a London-based television producer and director who has made a number of documentary films for BBC TV, Channel 4 and PBS.

Tags: meeting, polio vaccine, WI-38, primary monkey kidney cells

Duration: 2 minutes, 20 seconds

Date story recorded: July 2011

Date story went live: 08 August 2012