Emil Adolf von Behring (15 March 1854 – 31 March 1917) born Adolf Emil Behring in Hansdorf (now Ławice, Iława County), Kreis Rosenberg, Province of Prussia, now Poland. Between 1874 and 1878, he studied medicine at the Akademie für das militärärztliche Bildungswesen, Berlin. He was mainly a military doctor and then became Professor of Hygienics within the Faculty of Medicine at the University of Marburg. He and the pharmacologist Hans Horst Meyer had their laboratories in the same building, and Behring stimulated Meyer’s interest in the mode of action of tetanus toxin. Behring was the discoverer of diphtheria antitoxin in 1890 and attained a great reputation by that means and by his contributions to the study of immunity.
He won the first Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1901 for the development of serum therapies against diphtheria and tetanus. At the International Tuberculosis Congress in 1905 he announced that he had discovered “a substance proceeding from the virus of tuberculosis.” This substance, which he designated “T C”, plays the important part in the immunizing action of Professor Behring’s “bovivaccine”, which prevents bovine tuberculosis. He tried unsuccessfully to obtain a protective and therapeutic agent for humans. He created an antitoxin.
Behring demonstrated that the injection of toxins was able to be transmitted to another animal by injections of a treated animal’s blood serum and used as a means of effecting a cure. Behring died at Marburg, Hessen-Nassau, on 31 March 1917. His name survived with the Dade Behring, organisation, at the time, the world’s largest company dedicated solely to clinical diagnostics, (now part of the Siemens Healthcare Division) in CSL Behring a manufacturer of plasma-derived biotherapies, in Behringwerke AG in Marburg, in Novartis Behring and in the Emil von Behring Prize of the University of Marburg, the highest endowed medicine award in Germany.
Waldemar Mordecai Wolff Haffkine (15 March 1860 – 26 October 1930) was a Russian Empire Jewish bacteriologist, whose career was blighted in Russia because “he refused to convert to Russian Orthodoxy.” He emigrated and worked at the Pasteur Institute in Paris, where he developed an anti-cholera vaccine that he tried out successfully in India. He is recognized as the first microbiologist who developed and used vaccines against cholera and bubonic plague. He tested the vaccines on himself. Lord Joseph Lister named him “a saviour of humanity”. He was knighted in Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee year Honours in 1897. The Jewish Chronicle of that time noted “a Russian Jew, trained in the schools of European science, saves the lives of helpless Hindoos and Mohammedans and is decorated by the descendant of William the Conqueror and Alfred the Great” (Page 8 of the London Jewish Chronicle 1 June 2012).
Haffkine focused his research on developing cholera vaccine and produced an attenuated form of the bacterium. Risking his own life, on July 18, 1892, Haffkine performed the first human test on himself and reported his findings on July 30 to the Biological Society. The scientist decided to move to India where hundreds of thousands died from ongoing epidemics. In 1983, he managed to vaccinate about 25,000 volunteers, most of whom survived. After contracting malaria, Haffkine had to return to France. In his August 1895 report to Royal College of Physicians in London about the results of his Indian expedition, Haffkine dedicated his successes to Pasteur, who recently had died. In March 1896, against his doctor’s advice, Haffkine returned to India and performed 30,000 vaccinations in seven months.
In October 1896, an epidemic of bubonic plague struck Mumbai and the government asked Haffkine to help. He embarked upon the development of a vaccine in a makeshift laboratory in a corridor of Grant Medical College. In three months of persistent work (one of his assistants experienced a nervous breakdown, two others quit), a form for human trials was ready and on January 10, 1897 Haffkine tested it on himself. “Haffkine’s vaccine used a small amount of the bacteria to produce an immune reaction.” After these results were announced to the authorities, volunteers at the Byculla jail were inoculated and survived the epidemics, while seven inmates of the control group died.
By the turn of the 20th century, the number of inoculees in India alone reached four million and doctor Haffkine was appointed the Director of the Plague Laboratory in Mumbai (now called Haffkine Institute). Haffkine was the first to prepare a vaccine for human prophylaxis by killing virulent culture by heat at 60°C. The major limit of his vaccine was the lack of activity against pulmonary forms of plague.
Edward Donnall “Don” Thomas (March 15, 1920 – October 20, 2012) was an American physician, professor emeritus at the University of Washington, and director emeritus of the clinical research division at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center. In 1990 he shared the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine with Joseph E. Murray for the development of cell and organ transplantation. Thomas developed bone marrow transplantation as a treatment for leukemia.
Thomas attended the University of Texas at Austin where he studied chemistry and chemical engineering, graduating with a B.A. in 1941 and an M. A.in 1943. He entered Harvard Medical School in 1943, receiving an M.D. in 1946. Dottie became a lab technician during this time to support the family, and the pair worked closely thereafter. He did his residency at Peter Bent Brigham Hospital before joining the US Army. “In 1955, he was appointed physician in chief at the Mary Imogene Bassett Hospital, now Bassett Medical Center, in Cooperstown, N.Y., an affiliate of Columbia University.”
At Mary Imogene Bassett, he began to study rodents that received lethal doses of radiation who were then saved by an infusion of marrow cells. At the time, patients who underwent bone marrow transplantation all died from infections or immune reactions that weren’t seen in the rodent studies. Thomas began to use dogs as a model system. In 1963, he moved his lab to the United States Public Health Service in Seattle. Thomas also received National Medal of Science in 1990. In 2003 he was one of 21 Nobel Laureates who signed the Humanist Manifesto.