Baruch S. Blumberg
Born Jul 28 1925 - Died Apr 5 2011
Vaccine Against Viral Hepatitis and Process; Process of Viral Diagnosis and Reagent
Vaccine for Hepatitis B
Patent Number(s) 3,636,191; 3,872,225
Baruch Blumberg discovered an antigen in 1963 that detected the presence of hepatitis B in blood samples. Hepatitis B is a potentially fatal disease often transmitted through blood transfusions. This hepatitis antigen, 'the Australia Antigen,' was found frequently in the blood serum of viral hepatitis sufferers. The antigen was named for an aborigine blood sample that reacted with an antibody in the serum of an American hemophilia patient. Working with Blumberg, microbiologist Irving Millman developed a test that identified hepatitis B in blood samples. The blood test screened out carriers of this infectious disease, and after blood banks began using the test in 1971, hepatitis B after blood transfusions decreased by 25 percent.
The test also became the first method for screening blood donations for the hepatitis B virus. Together, Blumberg and Millman developed a vaccine against the virus. This vaccine protects people exposed to hepatitis B from infection and has been administered to millions, particularly in Asia and Africa. Since hepatitis B is an unknown factor associated with the development of liver cancer, the vaccine was the first against a major form of cancer.
Born in New York City, Baruch Blumberg graduated from Far Rockaway High School then joined the Navy, which assigned him to study physics at Union College in Schenectady, New York (B.S. 1946). He has an M.D., 1951, from Columbia University, and a Ph.D. in biochemistry, 1957, from Balliol College at Oxford University. He worked at the National Institutes of Health from 1957 to 1964 then joined Fox Chase Cancer Center and was also appointed professor of medicine and anthropology at the University of Pennsylvania. Blumberg shared the Nobel Prize in Medicine and Physiology in 1976. In 1989, he became Master of Balliol College at Oxford while maintaining a position at Fox Chase Cancer Center. Irving Millman was born in New York City. He received a B.S. in 1948 from City College in New York, an M.S. in 1951 from the University of Kentucky, and a Ph.D. in 1954 from the Northwestern University Medical School, where he was appointed assistant professor. He joined Fox in 1967 after having previously held positions with Armour & Company, the Public Health Research Institute of the City of New York Inc., and the Merck Institute for Therapeutic Research. He is an adjunct professor of biology at Hahnemann University in Philadelphia. He has been a member of the New York Academy of Sciences, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and the American Society of Microbiology and is a fellow of the American Academy of Microbiology.