Lessons from the Salk polio vaccine: Methods for and risks of rapid translation

Justin E. Juskewitch, Carmen J. Tapia, Anthony J. Windebank

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Scopus citations


The Salk inactivated poliovirus vaccine is one of the most rapid examples of bench-to-bedside translation in medicine. In the span of 6 years, the key basic lab discoveries facilitating the development of the vaccine were made, optimization and safety testing was completed in both animals and human volunteers, the largest clinical trial in history of 1.8 million children was conducted, and the results were released to an eagerly awaiting public. Such examples of rapid translation cannot only offer clues to what factors can successfully drive and accelerate the translational process but also what mistakes can occur (and thus should be avoided) during such a swift process. In this commentary, we explore the translational path of the Salk polio vaccine from the key basic science discoveries to the 1954 Field Trials and delve into the scientific and sociopolitical factors that aided in its rapid development. Moreover, we look at the Cutter and Wyeth incidents after the vaccine's approval and the errors that led to them.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)182-185
Number of pages4
JournalClinical and translational science
Issue number4
StatePublished - Aug 2010


  • Commentary
  • Vaccines
  • Viruses

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)
  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Pharmacology, Toxicology and Pharmaceutics(all)


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