succumbing to peer pressure

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Stress! Avoidance!

So I'm giving a poster presentation this weekend. And I finished the content portion of the poster last Wednesday. I tried to send it off to our university printer but they were going to charge an exhorbitant amount to design the layout and do the printing. My advisor, who is excellent, but clearly hasn't designed her own poster in a while, said she was pretty sure we could find another printer that would do both for a reasonable price. So we contacted the researchers with whom we did the last poster (for that conference in CA) and they said oh yes, university printing is a rip-off, use these other people, we like them a lot and they're very afforable. So Wednesday morning I send everything off to them, they reply that they've got the files and will get to work, I remind them of my March 11 deadline. I go to the beach for two days, expecting to come home to a poster proof for approval. No proof, but no sweat, it's still one full week until the conference. I send some updated layout info to them on Monday, they reply thanks. So I know they're out there and working. But still no results. So last night I send a little reminder, hey, I'm getting a little nervous, where's the proof to approve prior to printing? Still nothing. I'm trying (and mostly failing) not to freak out. So I'm avoiding by watching Panda Cam and blogging about the excellent nerd lecture I attended last night.

The nerd lecture was about Maurice Hilleman. Ma-who? You've never heard of him? He should be the most famous person in the history of vaccines. But for a variety of reasons (mostly political) he's not. He died in 2005 and one of his friends and coworkers did this retrospective on his life and accomplishments.

First, a polio update (this nerd lecture was, after all, at the Vaccine Dinner Club, where we spend a lot of time talking about disease eradication) - Nigeria, India, Afghanistan, and Pakistan are currently the last four remaining countries with endmic polio. Unfortunately, over 2 dozen other countries have recently reported hot spots with new cases. We're moving backward.

Second, for all those anti-vaccine folks out there - today's vaccination schedule actually contains fewer total immunogenic products than our generation's, because the vaccines themselves have been improved and made more 'precise/efficient.' Also, if you've read The Virus and the Vaccine, which attempts to link cancer with the SV40 polio vaccine, Offit reports that it's an excellent books except for one small detail - all of the science in it is wrong.

Third, the speaker, Paul Offit, wrote The Cutter Incident: How America's First Polio Vaccine Led to the Growing Vaccine Crisis (which, by the way, is on my amazon wishlist) and will soon be coming out with Vaccinated: One Man's Quest to Defeat the World's Deadliest Diseases.

Now, on to the talk itself! In April of 1957 there was an avian flu outbreak in Hong Kong. Hilleman recognized its potential to turn into an epidemic (or pandemic) and cross US borders. So he became the first person to predict a flu epidemic and convinced six US-based vaccine companies to produce 40 million doses of flu vaccine. Result: minimal outbreak in America. And just in case you're wondering, we currently have 0 US-based vaccine companies.

Apparently Hilleman was (in)famous for his profanity-laced speech, and Offit guesses that Vaccinated may be the first book to contain both "DNA polymerase" and "fucking moron"!

Hilleman developed the mumps vaccine from a virus attenuated from his own daughter!

Truman (or was it Hoover?) campaigned on the slogal, "A Chicken in Every Pot," but it was Hilleman who actually made that possible - he developed Marek's vaccine (via Merck) and prevented cancer in chickens, dramatically reducing their price at grocery stores.

And lastly, my favorite quote of the evening - "Merck is like a law firm with an interest in pharmaceuticals."


Anonymous A White Bear said...

I just wanted to note that, somehow, I missed your last 10 posts because my Bloglines subscription spontaneously deleted you. So sorry! I need to check these things more often.


1:33 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home