Would Jonas Salk Join The Open-Source Movement?

Jess Bolluyt | Tech CheatSheet | October 28, 2014

Jonas Salk was born 100 years ago in New York, and Google is celebrating the anniversary of his birth with a homepage Doodle depicting the creator of the first successful inactivated polio vaccine with a sidewalk full of grateful children. While Salk’s lasting impression on medicine and its place in society is obvious, his philosophy on the patent-free development of the polio vaccine — and its applicability to the increasing influence of technology on biological and biomedical research — is also an important part of what he left behind.

According to the Salk Institute’s biography on the iconic researcher, he received his medical degree in 1939 from the New York University School of Medicine, and in 1947 became director of the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine’s Virus Research Laboratory, where he would complete his work on the vaccine for paralytic poliomyelitis, or polio. His goal was to trigger the body’s ability to defend itself with an injection of the deactivated virus, instead of with an injection of the live, infectious virus. As the Institute’s website explains:

He was already struck by the principle of vaccination: that if the body is artificially exposed to a harmless form of a disease virus, the body will produce antibodies that resist or kill the dangerous form of the virus if later exposed. In contrast to the Pasteurian dogma of the times, Salk believed that protective immunity could be induced without infection by a living virus such as those used in the vaccines against smallpox and rabies...