Envision: Vaccine Victories

Living History
Written on: 
Monday, June 11, 2012

The University of Toronto’s Faculty of Medicine played a major role in the modern era of infectious disease prevention, particularly vaccine advances made at Connaught Laboratories – a self-supporting part of the university from 1914 through 1972, dedicated to the research, production and distribution of public health products.

Connaught’s founder, Dr. John G. FitzGerald, recognized the need to expedite production and evaluation of DIPHTHERIA toxoid – originally discovered at the Pasteur Institute in France – to enable a series of field trials in Canada between 1926 and 1931. The results were dramatic; the new vaccine was responsible for bringing the incidence of this early 20th century childhood disease down to virtually zero within five years.

During the early 1950s, the University of Toronto played an even greater role in bringing the growing scourge of POLIO under control, contributing several essential elements to producing a safe and plentiful supply of the Salk inactivated polio vaccine. “Medium 199” – the world’s first synthetic tissue culture medium – proved ideal for cultivating the poliovirus for a human vaccine. And “The Toronto Method” developed by Dr. Leone N. Farrell for large-scale
production of the poliovirus, made it possible to test the Salk polio vaccine through the largest field trial in medical history in 1954.