Albert Sabin
Abram Saperstejn

(1906-08-26)August 26, 1906
DiedMarch 3, 1993(1993-03-03) (aged 86)
CitizenshipPoland (until 1930), United States (since 1930)
Alma materNew York University
Known forOral polio vaccine
Sylvia Tregillus
(m. 1935; died 1966)
Jane Warner
(m. 1967; div. 1971)
Heloisa Dunshee de Abranches
(m. 1972)
AwardsE. Mead Johnson Award (1941)
National Medal of Science (1970)
John Howland Award (1974)
Presidential Medal of Freedom (1986)
Scientific career
FieldsImmunology, virology

Albert Bruce Sabin (/ˈsbɪn/ SAY-bin; August 26, 1906 – March 3, 1993) was a Polish-American medical researcher, best known for developing the oral polio vaccine, which has played a key role in nearly eradicating the disease. In 1969–72, he served as the president of the Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel.


Abram Saperstejn (later Albert Sabin) was born in Białystok, Russian Empire (before and since 1918 in Poland), to Polish-Jewish parents, Jacob Saperstejn and Tillie Krugman.[1] In 1921,[2] he emigrated with his family on the SS Lapland which sailed from Antwerp, Belgium, to the Port of New York. In 1930, he became a naturalized citizen of the United States and changed his name to Sabin, as well as assuming the middle name Bruce. He graduated from high school in Paterson, New Jersey.[3]

Sabin began university in a dentistry program, but was interested in virology and changed majors. He received a bachelor's degree in science in 1928 and a medical degree in 1931 from New York University.[3][4]

In 1983, Sabin developed calcification of the cervical spine, which caused paralysis and intense pain.[5][6] Sabin revealed in a television interview that the experience had made him decide to spend the rest of his life working on alleviating pain.[7] This condition was successfully treated by surgery conducted at Johns Hopkins Hospital in 1992 when Sabin was 86. A year later, Sabin died in Washington, D.C., from heart failure.

Medical career

Sabin trained in internal medicine, pathology, and surgery at Bellevue Hospital in New York City from 1931 to 1933. In 1934, he conducted research at The Lister Institute for Preventive Medicine in England, then joined the Rockefeller Institute for Medical Research (now Rockefeller University). During this time, he developed an intense interest in research, especially in the area of infectious diseases.

In 1939, he moved to Cincinnati Children's Hospital in Cincinnati, Ohio. During World War II, he was a lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Army Medical Corps and helped develop a vaccine against Japanese encephalitis. Maintaining his association with Children's Hospital, by 1946, he had also become the head of Pediatric Research at the University of Cincinnati. At Cincinnati's Children's Hospital, Sabin supervised the fellowship of Robert M. Chanock, whom he called his "star scientific son".[8]

Sabin went on a fact-finding trip to Cuba in 1967 to discuss with Cuban officials the possibility of establishing a collaborative relationship between the United States and Cuba through their respective national academies of sciences, in spite of the fact that the two countries did not have formal diplomatic ties.[9]

In 1969–72, he lived in Israel, serving as president of Weizmann Institute of Science in Rehovot. After his return to the United States, he worked (1974–82) as a research professor at the Medical University of South Carolina. He later moved to the Washington, D.C., area, where he was a resident scholar at the John E. Fogarty International Center on the NIH campus in Bethesda, Maryland.

Polio research

Sabin (right) with Robert C. Gallo, M.D., circa 1985

With the menace of polio growing, Sabin and other researchers, most notably Jonas Salk in Pittsburgh and Hilary Koprowski and H. R. Cox in New York City and Philadelphia, sought a vaccine to prevent or mitigate the illness. This was complicated because there were multiple strains of the disease. In 1951, the National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis's typing program confirmed the existence of three main serotypes of poliovirus, since known as type 1, type 2, and type 3.[10][11][3]

Salk developed an inactivated poliovirus vaccine (IPV), a "dead" vaccine given by injection, which was released for use in 1955.[12][13] It was effective in preventing most of the complications of polio, but did not prevent the initial intestinal infection.[13]

By carrying out autopsies of polio victims, Sabin was able to demonstrate that the poliovirus multiplied and attacked the intestines before it moved to the central nervous system. This also suggested that polio virus could be grown in other tissues besides embryonic brain tissue, leading to easier and cheaper methods of vaccine development.[3][10] John Enders, Thomas Huckle Weller, and Frederick Robbins would successfully grow poliovirus in laboratory cultures of non-nerve tissue in 1949, an achievement that earned them the 1954 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine.[3]

Sabin developed an oral vaccine based on mutant strains of polio virus that seemed to stimulate antibody production but not to cause paralysis. Recipients of his live attenuated oral vaccine included himself, family, and colleagues. Sabin's first clinical trials were carried out at the Chillicothe Ohio Reformatory in late 1954. From 1956–1960, he worked with Russian colleagues to perfect the oral vaccine and prove its extraordinary effectiveness and safety. The Sabin vaccine worked in the intestines to block the poliovirus from entering the bloodstream.[3]

Between 1955 and 1961, the oral vaccine was tested on at least 100 million people in the USSR, parts of Eastern Europe, Singapore, Mexico, and the Netherlands. The first industrial production and mass use of oral poliovirus vaccine (OPV) from Sabin strains was organized by Soviet scientist Mikhail Chumakov.[14][15] This provided the critical impetus for allowing large-scale clinical trials of OPV in the United States in April 1960 on 180,000 Cincinnati school children. The mass immunization techniques that Sabin pioneered with his associates effectively eradicated polio in Cincinnati. Against considerable opposition from the March of Dimes Foundation, which supported use of Salk's relatively effective killed vaccine, Sabin prevailed on the Public Health Service (PHS) to license his three strains of vaccine. While the PHS stalled, the USSR sent millions of doses of the oral vaccine to places with polio epidemics, such as Japan.[10]

Sabin's first oral poliovirus vaccine (OPV), for use against type 1 polioviruses, was licensed in the United States in 1961. His vaccines for type 2 and type 3 polioviruses were licensed in 1962. At first, the monovalent poliovirus vaccines were administered together by being put on a sugar cube.[16] In 1964, a single trivalent OPV containing all three viral serotypes was approved.[13][10] Sabin's oral vaccine was easier to give than the earlier vaccine developed by Salk in 1954, and its effects lasted longer. The Sabin vaccine became the predominant method of vaccination against polio in the United States for the next three decades. It broke the chain of transmission of the virus and allowed for the possibility that polio might one day be eradicated.[3][10]

Sabin also developed vaccines against other viral diseases, including encephalitis and dengue. In addition, he investigated possible links between viruses and some forms of cancer[citation needed]


Sabin refused to patent his vaccine, waiving commercial exploitation by pharmaceutical industries, so that the low price would guarantee a more extensive spread of the treatment. From the development of his vaccine Sabin did not gain a penny, and continued to live on his salary as a professor. The Sabin Vaccine Institute was founded in 1993 to continue the work of developing and promoting vaccines. To commemorate Sabin's pioneering work, the institute annually awards the Albert B. Sabin Gold Medal in recognition of work in the field of vaccinology or a complementary field.

Awards and recognition

Leaders in the effort against polio were honored at the opening of the Polio Hall of Fame on January 2, 1958. From left: Thomas M. Rivers, Charles Armstrong, John R. Paul, Thomas Francis Jr., Albert Sabin, Joseph L. Melnick, Isabel Morgan, Howard A. Howe, David Bodian, Jonas Salk, Eleanor Roosevelt and Basil O'Connor.[17]
The CARE/Crawley Building houses the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine.

See also


  1. ^ Moreno, Barry (4 October 2017). Ellis Island's Famous Immigrants. Arcadia Publishing. ISBN 9780738555331. Retrieved 4 October 2017 – via Google Books.
  2. ^ "The Legacy of Albert B. Sabin - Sabin". October 2012. Retrieved 4 October 2017.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g "Jonas Salk and Albert Bruce Sabin". Science History Institute. January 8, 2017. Retrieved June 15, 2020.
  4. ^ "Albert Sabin Biography". Notable Biographies. Retrieved 4 October 2017.
  5. ^ Philip Boffey, Sabin, Paralyzed, Tells of Death Wish. In the New York Times, November 27, 1983.
  6. ^ Ezra Bowen, The Doctor Whose Vaccine Saved Millions from Polio Battles Back from a Near-Fatal Paralysis Archived 2009-07-04 at the Wayback Machine. In People, July 2, 1984.
  7. ^ Health Care; The Fight Against Death. Special comment by Keith Olbermann on Countdown, 2009-10-07.
  8. ^ Brown, Emma. "Robert M. Chanock, virologist who studied children's diseases, dies at 86", The Washington Post, August 4, 2010. Accessed August 9, 2010.
  9. ^ Jiménez, Marguerite (June 9, 2014). "Epidemics and Opportunities for U.S.-Cuba Collaboration". Science & Diplomacy. 3 (2).
  10. ^ a b c d e Wilson, Daniel J. (2009). Polio. Santa Barbara, California: ABC-CLIO. pp. 95, 123–125. ISBN 9780313358975. Retrieved 15 June 2020.
  11. ^ CDC. "U.S. National Authority for Containment of Poliovirus". U.S. Department of Health & Human Services. Retrieved 15 June 2020.
  12. ^ Juskewitch, Justin E.; Tapia, Carmen J.; Windebank, Anthony J. (August 2010). "Lessons from the Salk Polio Vaccine: Methods for and Risks of Rapid Translation". Clinical and Translational Science. 3 (4): 182–185. doi:10.1111/j.1752-8062.2010.00205.x. PMC 2928990. PMID 20718820.
  13. ^ a b c Racaniello, Vincent (30 March 2009). "Learning vaccinology from an immunization record". Virology Blog. Retrieved 15 June 2020.
  14. ^ Sabin A.B. (1987). "Role of my cooperation with Soviet scientists in the elimination of polio: possible lessons for relations between the U.S.A. and the USSR". Perspect Biol Med. 31 (1): 57–64. doi:10.1353/pbm.1987.0023. PMID 3696960. S2CID 45655185.
  15. ^ Benison S (1982). "International Medical Cooperation: Dr. Albert Sabin, Live Poliovirus Vaccine and the Soviets". Bulletin of the History of Medicine. 56 (4): 460–83. PMID 6760938.
  16. ^ "Polio: Two Vaccines". Whatever Happened to Polio?. National Museum of American History. Smithsonian Institution. Retrieved 10 September 2021. Image caption: Oral polio vaccine used in the early 1960s, and sugar cubes (2004 vintage) on which the drops would be placed before feeding the vaccine to children
  17. ^ Furman, Bess (January 3, 1958). "New Hall of Fame Hails Polio Fight". The New York Times. Retrieved April 8, 2020.
  18. ^ Tan, Siang Yong; Ponstein, Nate (January 2019). "Jonas Salk (1914–1995): A vaccine against polio". Singapore Medical Journal. 60 (1): 9–10. doi:10.11622/smedj.2019002. ISSN 0037-5675. PMC 6351694. PMID 30840995.
  19. ^ Encyclopedia of the Neurological Sciences. Academic Press. 2014-04-29. ISBN 978-0-12-385158-1.
  20. ^ "Finding aid for the Albert B. Sabin Papers (Addendum)". Retrieved 2021-02-15.
  21. ^ "News - Special Reports - Albert B. Sabin -- National Medal of Science 50th Anniversary - NSF - National Science Foundation". Retrieved 4 October 2017.
  22. ^ Bonfield, Tim (July 5, 1999). "Sabin has been snubbed before". The Cincinnati Enquirer. Retrieved October 11, 2015.
  23. ^ "Albert Sabin Way to be dedicated". University Currents. April 21, 2000. Archived from the original on June 7, 2010. Retrieved March 7, 2016.
  24. ^ USPS press release Archived 2006-09-30 at the Wayback Machine.
  25. ^ "Capitol Square Foundation press release". Archived from the original on 3 March 2016. Retrieved 4 October 2017.

Further reading