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NIH Record

NIH Scientists Win Lasker Award

Two NICHD scientists, Dr. John Robbins and Dr. Rachel Schneerson, will receive the 1996 Albert Lasker Clinical Medical Research Award for the landmark development of a polysaccharide-protein conjugate vaccine for Hemophilus influenzae type b (Hib).

Robbins and Schneerson joined NICHD in 1962, soon after the institute was established by Congress. At that time, the leading cause of acquired mental retardation in the United States was brain damage from meningitis caused by Hib. Meningitis is a potentially fatal infection of the membranes surrounding the brain. Even with effective antibiotic treatment of Hib infection, 5 percent of those who contracted it died and about 30 percent had residual central nervous system damage, including mental retardation, deafness or seizures. Because of the development of the vaccine, however, Hib infection has been reduced by more than 95 percent in the U.S.

The NICHD investigators will share the award with two other scientists who worked independently of them as part of another team to develop the Hib vaccine, Drs. Porter Warren Anderson Jr. and David Hamilton Smith.

Since routine use of Hib conjugate vaccine began in the U.S., the number of cases of Hib meningitis or sepsis has fallen from 15-20,000 per year to less than 100.

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