Hepatitis B Vaccine's Inventor Memorialized

The vaccine was created in 1969 and patented three years later. It has saved millions of people around the world. Dr. Baruch Blumberg, who discovered the hepatitis B virus, died April 5 in California.

Dr. Baruch S. Blumberg, who won a Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1976 for discovering the virus that causes hepatitis B infections, died April 5 in California. He explained the unique method in which he and colleagues identified an antigen that provokes antibody response against the hepatitis B virus and then developed the vaccine in his Nobel Prize lecture in December 1976.

The blood test he developed became universal for blood banks, which prevented millions of people from contracting hepatitis B and, as a result, developing liver cancer.

Blumberg developed the vaccine with Dr. Irving Millman, a colleague at Philadelphia's Fox Chase Cancer Center, with which Blumberg was associated from 1964 to 1989. "I think it’s fair to say that Barry prevented more cancer deaths than any person who's ever lived," said Jonathan Chernoff, Ph.D., chief scientific officer at Fox Chase.

Blumberg, who was 85, was a Distinguished Scientist at the NASA Lunar Science Institute at the NASA Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, Calif. He died of an apparent heart attack after giving a speech there.

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