The Vaccine Race: Science, Politics, and the Human Costs of Defeating Disease

The Vaccine Race: Science, Politics, and the Human Costs of Defeating Disease

by Meredith Wadman


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The Vaccine Race: Science, Politics, and the Human Costs of Defeating Disease by Meredith Wadman

“Riveting . . . [The Vaccine Race] invites comparison with Rebecca Skloot's 2007 The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks.”—Nature 

“This is a story about the war against disease—a war without end—and the development of enormously important vaccines, but in telling that story, in showing how science works, Meredith Wadman reveals much more. I loved this book.”
—John M. Barry, New York Times bestselling author of The Great Influenza

The epic and controversial story of a major breakthrough in cell biology that led to the conquest of rubella and other devastating diseases.

Until the late 1960s, tens of thousands of American children suffered crippling birth defects if their mothers had been exposed to rubella, popularly known as German measles, while pregnant; there was no vaccine and little understanding of how the disease devastated fetuses. In June 1962, a young biologist in Philadelphia, using tissue extracted from an aborted fetus from Sweden, produced safe, clean cells that allowed the creation of vaccines against rubella and other common childhood diseases. Two years later, in the midst of a devastating German measles epidemic, his colleague developed the vaccine that would one day wipe out homegrown rubella. The rubella vaccine and others made with those fetal cells have protected more than 150 million people in the United States, the vast majority of them preschoolers. The new cells and the method of making them also led to vaccines that have protected billions of people around the world from polio, rabies, chicken pox, measles, hepatitis A, shingles and adenovirus.
Meredith Wadman’s masterful account recovers not only the science of this urgent race, but also the political roadblocks that nearly stopped the scientists. She describes the terrible dilemmas of pregnant women exposed to German measles and recounts testing on infants, prisoners, orphans, and the intellectually disabled, which was common in the era. These events take place at the dawn of the battle over using human fetal tissue in research, during the arrival of big commerce in campus labs, and as huge changes take place in the laws and practices governing who “owns” research cells and the profits made from biological inventions. It is also the story of yet one more unrecognized woman whose cells have been used to save countless lives.
With another frightening virus imperiling pregnant women on the rise today, no medical story could have more human drama, impact, or urgency today than The Vaccine Race.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780143111313
Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date: 09/04/2018
Pages: 464
Sales rank: 543,344
Product dimensions: 5.40(w) x 8.40(h) x 1.20(d)

About the Author

Meredith Wadman has covered biomedical research politics from Washington for twenty years. She is a reporter at  Science and has written for Nature, Fortune, the New York Times, and the Wall Street Journal. A graduate of Stanford and Columbia, she began medical school at the University of British Columbia and completed her medical degree as a Rhodes scholar at the University of Oxford.

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Excerpted from "The Vaccine Race"
by .
Copyright © 2018 Meredith Wadman.
Excerpted by permission of Penguin Publishing Group.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

Prologue 1

Part 1 The Cells

Chapter 1 Beginnings 13

Chapter 2 Discovery 19

Chapter 3 The Wistar Reborn 31

Chapter 4 Abnormal Chromosomes and Abortions 44

Chapter 5 Dying Cells and Dogma 57

Chapter 6 The Swedish Source 78

Chapter 7 Polio Vaccine "Passengers" 95

Chapter 8 Trials 112

Part 2 Rubella

Chapter 9 An Emerging Enemy 133

Chapter 10 Plague of the Pregnant 151

Chapter 11 Rabies 164

Chapter 12 Orphans and Ordinary People 175

Chapter 13 The Devils We Know 189

Chapter 14 Politics and Persuasion 204

Chapter 15 The Great Escape 213

Chapter 16 In the Bear Pit 225

Chapter 17 Cell Wars 239

Chapter 18 DBS Defeated 246

Chapter 19 Breakthrough 253

Part 3 The WI-38 Wars

Chapter 20 Slaughtered Babies and Skylab 265

Chapter 21 Cells, Inc. 271

Chapter 22 Rocky Passage 288

Chapter 23 The Vaccine Race 302

Chapter 24 Biology, Inc. 312

Chapter 25 Hayflick's Limit Explained 320

Chapter 26 Boot-Camp Bugs and Vatican Entreaties 333

Chapter 27 The Afterlife of a Cell 341

Epilogue: Where They Are Now 356

Acknowledgments 363

Notes 369

Selected Bibliography 415

Index 421

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