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Three Harvard doctors whose research made possible an anti-poliomyelitis vaccine were yesterday awarded the 1954 Nobel Prize for medicine.
Sharing the $35,066 award are John F. Enders, associate professor of Bacteriology and Immunology at the Medical School; Dr. Thomas H. Weller, Richard Pearson Strong Professor of Tropical Health at the School of Public Health; and Dr. Frederick C. Robbins, a former associate of Enders and Weller, who is now at western Reserve Medical School in Cleveland.
Yesterday's announcement marks the third successive year that University scientists have received Nobel awards. It is also the seventh time since the prizes were established in 1901 that University faculty members have been so honored.
The three doctors were cited in the announcement for their discovery of "the ability of poliomyelitis to multiply in tissue from primates." It was this finding, made in 1949 at the Children's Medical Center, Boston that made possible the growth of enough polio virus to produce the Salk vaccine currently being used in mass inoculations throughout the country.
Only Method New Used
Speaking at a press conference yesterday, Enders, who headed the three-man research team, described the group's accomplishment this way: "The tissue- culture method which we showed could be applied to the growing of polio virus is the one now used in producing vaccine."
Pressed for a less modest appraisal, Enders admitted that today's vaccine production would be impossible without the test-tube technique developed by him and his associates.
Before their discovery, Dr. Weller explained, polio virus had never been grown on non-nervous tissues, and all research had to be done on monkeys, an expensive procedure. Under the new virus-growth method, however, "one test tube culture has replaced one monkey," and mass production of polio vaccine is now feasible, Dr. Wells said.
Both Enders and Dr. Weller have talked with Dr. Jonas Salk at various times during their work on the poliovirus, and both are members of the group that will evaluate the results of this year's Salk vaccine tests.
cure Not Near
In answer to the question: "How close are we to a cue for polio?", Enders yesterday said that "a cure is not very near, but there is a good possibility that we may soon be able to prevent the disease.
Asked to describe the day in 1943 when he and his two colleagues discovered that their new method worked Dr. Weller said that their elation was strongly tempered with doubt. "You try something, you think it works, but it looks like something revolutionary, so you distrust your results and try it again and again," he said.
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