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Quotes from and on John Maassab

Quotes from Dr. Hunein "John" Maassab, professor of epidemiology, University of Michigan School of Public Health, about his flu vaccine work:

"I focused on this goal for so long because we had many successes along the way. The work was challenging. I was inspired by the success in the 1950s of another live virus vaccine in preventing polio.

"My work started with a job offer from Dr. Thomas Francis Jr. to join the department of epidemiology after receiving my Ph.D. in 1956. My mentor Dr. Francis asked me to work on a live flu vaccine because the killed virus vaccine was not completely effective. Some people who got the killed virus vaccine were not protected. They got the flu."

"One of our first steps was to develop a stable master strain. This was accomplished in the 1970s when the National Institutes of Health started to fund this research. This master strain is used to change the genetic characteristics of the live flu vaccine when such changes are needed."

"At the end of the 1970s and beginning of the 1980s, the National Institutes of Health funded clinical trials to test the efficacy and safety of the new vaccine. During this time NIH also tested to make sure that the genetic characteristics of the virus did not change in people receiving the live virus vaccine. They also confirmed that a person receiving this live virus vaccine could not transmit the virus to other people."

Cold adapting the virus, said Maassab, is "the process where the growth temperature of the virus is continually lowered until the virus grows as well at the lower temperature as it did at its previous temperature." He added, "As the virus cold adapts, it mutates and becomes temperature sensitive. This results in a weakened virus which will not grow well at the higher temperature of the lungs, but will replicate well in the nasal passages where it elicits local immunity. Since influenza is an airborne pathogen, the local antibody (IgA) is present to stop the virus where it enters the body, generally through the nose."

"I hope that the success of the approaches I have developed will continue to be used by my lab, and by others, to continue the development of live vaccines for other respiratory viruses that cause disease and disability. A good candidate virus is the respiratory syncytial virus that causes pneumonia."

"The prevention and control of viral diseases is an important evolving public health effort. Infectious diseases are an increasing public health problem. My work can serve as an example for others to follow."

"My family is very proud of my accomplishments. In recognition of my work, Aviron and my family created a scholarship fund in my name at the University of Michigan School of Public Health. This scholarship fund will provide financial support for graduate students working in virology."

"There are too many colleagues who participated in this research effort to thank each one individually. I do want to thank my faculty colleagues, students, postdoctoral fellows, and other collaborators for all their efforts on this research. I am so proud of their professional accomplishments."

Noreen Clark, Dean of the U-M School of Public Health:

"John Maassab's work is characterized by creativity, innovation and a tenacious interest in bringing to fruition influenza prevention through a cold-adapted, live-virus vaccine. He continues the proud tradition of vaccinology at Michigan led in past decades by Dr. Thomas Francis and the astonishingly talented young scientists to work with him, including Jonas Salk. John Maassab would be an enormous source of pride to his mentor, Francis, in both the scientific strides he has made and in the superlative teacher, mentor and adviser he has become."

Fawwaz T. Ulaby, U-M vice president for research:

"I'm impressed by the dedication and perseverance of Professor Maassab. The long years of research required to bring his unique vision of a flu vaccine to this point is an excellent example of the how university science can both advance knowledge and lead to discoveries that contribute to human health."

Kenneth J. Nisbet, director of University of Michigan Technology Transfer:

"FluMist is a great example of how a small set of people -- hard-working, creative, persistent and bold-thinking people -- bridged a public-private collaboration to work toward bringing a valuable technology into the marketplace to improve our quality of life. Technology transfer is core to our university's mission and is our collective obligation. I'm proud of the role our institution and our office played in the still-evolving FluMist story."