a story lives forever
Sign in
Form submission failed!

Stay signed in

Recover your password?
Form submission failed!

Web of Stories Ltd would like to keep you informed about our products and services.

Please tick here if you would like us to keep you informed about our products and services.

I have read and accepted the Terms & Conditions.

Please note: Your email and any private information provided at registration will not be passed on to other individuals or organisations without your specific approval.

Video URL

You must be registered to use this feature. Sign in or register.


My involvement in worldwide vaccine production


Formalizing the production, storage and distribution of my cell culture medium
Leonard Hayflick Scientist
Comments (0) Please sign in or register to add comments

The issue that is of great importance to discuss at this point, requires that I go back a few years to pick up the story, and that is that I've emphasized several times the enormous demands for cell cultures that were made by people in the United States and Europe. And it soon became apparent that I was spending, and my technical helpers were spending an enormous amount of time and energy, and funds as well, Wistar overhead funds, which was indirectly supporting our work, such that my time that I wanted to use for my regular work was diminishing. At about this time, in fact it was rather early on, a fellow who I had known for many years, a cell culturist, who... who worked at the National Institutes of Health, a man by the name of Robert Stevenson, who was also a cell culture pioneer, but by this time he had an administrative job at the NIH. He was very influential in promoting the cell culture activities throughout the United States.

Because my cell cultures, WI-38 and WI-26, were used widely at the NIH, a government facility, of course, and by many government grantees who were now dependent on these cells for their research activities, made the demand for the cells actually skyrocket. Bob Stevenson came to me one day, I knew him personally, of course, from former meetings on tissue culture subjects, and Bob said, 'Len, look, we know that you're struggling to keep up with the demand for these cells, and it's apparent to you and to me that the NIH and our grantees are dependent on you as a source of these cells for their work. What about my preparing a contract for you – and the title of the contract is important, as will be shown later – to produce, store, and distribute? Those are the key three words – produce, store, and distribute – your cell cultures to properly qualified folks in the research, not only in the United States but even worldwide, as I recall the contract later was interpreted to cover. But this was a windfall because now, and of course this did indeed happen, I had funds, sufficient to hire another technician whose sole job it would be to prepare cultures, package them and ship them, and that was a big relief.

It's important to note at this point, the contract did not cover the development of a cell culture. It did not cover the research that went into it. It did not cover anything other than storing the ampoules, distributing them, and producing enough to meet the demand. And this will become an important issue later on.

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: National Institute of Health, Robert Stevenson

Duration: 3 minutes, 43 seconds

Date story recorded: July 2011

Date story went live: 08 August 2012