One of the world´s most renowned authorities in vaccinology and infectious diseases is visiting the International Vaccine Institute this week. Dr. John Robbins from the U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH), widely known for his leadership in the development of conjugate technology and the Haemophilus Influenzae type B (Hib) conjugate vaccine, will make a week-long visit to the IVI as the Institute´s Scholar in Residence starting October 23.
Dr. Robbins, currently Chief of the Laboratory of Developmental and Molecular Immunity, at the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, part of the US NIH, will give IVI scientists hands-on advice, as well as a series of public lectures. The topics of his lectures will be: "Influenza vaccine" (on Thursday, October 26), "What should be the composition of the new pertussis vaccine?" (on Monday, October 23), and "Conjugate vaccines with special emphasis on typhoid" (on Tuesday, October 24). These lectures are open to the public, as well as Korean scientists and students.
Dr. Robbins has made many breakthrough achievements during his scientific career, which spans five decades, focusing on developing vaccines against childhood diseases. He is known as the father of conjugate technology, which has led to the development of vaccines against bacterial diseases that are effective in infants. While vaccines against bacterial pneumonia, meningitis, typhoid and other "encapsulated polysaccharide" bacteria have been in existence for decades, they are not generally effective in children less than two years of age, due to their immature immune systems. As a result, many young children and infants continue to die from these diseases each year. By combining or "conjugating" these bacteria with a protein or other pathogen, vaccines can be developed that are effective in these very young children.
Among the best known conjugate vaccines developed by Dr. Robbins and his colleagues are the vaccines against Haemophilus Influenzae type B (Hib), and streptococcus pneumoniae - leading causes of bacterial meningitis, pneumonia, and acquired mental retardation in children. The vaccines are now given to infants throughout the world, including in several developing countries.
Dr. Robbins has also developed a conjugate typhoid vaccine, an improved pertussis vaccine, among others. Under an agreement with the US NIH, the IVI is now developing a conjugate vaccine against typhoid fever for use in poor countries, based on the conjugate technology developed by his laboratory. Dr. Robbins has received numerous awards, including the Albert Lasker Award for Clinical Medical Research, the World Health Organization´s Pasteur Award, and the Albert B. Sabin Gold Medal. A member of the US National Academy of Sciences and the Institute of Medicine, he also has served on many high profile committees, including World Health Organization Expert Advisory Panel on Biological Standardization. He earned his M.D. degree at New York University.
Dr. Robbins is the fourth scientist to participate in IVI´s Scholars in Residence program, which involves week-long visits to the IVI by vaccine experts. The program, sponsored by the pharmaceutical company Merck, aims to help the Korean biomedical community keep abreast of the latest developments in vaccinology through public lectures by visiting scholars, while facilitating exchanges between the Institute and the world´s leading centers of vaccinology.