Japanese virologist and research fellow at Baylor University, Texas, Michiaki Takahashi was the inventor of the first-ever chickenpox vaccine, protecting millions of children, and Google is honoring his contribution to science today. The Google Doodle is a celebration of scientists, artists, revolutionaries from around the world, in order to remember and honor their contribution to society.
The chickenpox vaccine by Michiaki Takahashi is among several other inventions of the world that came out of someone’s love for another individual; their partner, sibling, child, this time it was Takahashi’s son. In 1963 his 3-year-old son got sick with a fever and vesicles over his entire body, after coming into contact with a girl in a similar situation. In a first-hand interview to Financial Times titled ‘First Person: ‘I created the vaccine for chickenpox’ 11 years ago, Takashi talked about what led to his decision of exploring and researching the cure for the disease.
“His symptoms progressed quickly and severely. His temperature shut up, and he began having trouble breathing. All my wife and I could do was watch him day and night,” he added, “I realized then that I should use my knowledge of viruses to develop a chickenpox vaccine.”
After getting back to Japan in 1965, Takahashi decided he will start research into the virus Varicella zoster, which causes chickenpox. From 1970 onwards, he spent 9 years working with the virus in different human as well as guinea pig cell cultures. Finally, he developed the ‘Oka strain’, a much weaker version of the virus that could help kids get protection against the highly uncomfortable virus.
The vaccine officially became available in Japan in 1986, and in the U.S. in 1995. The vaccine has a 90% rate of prevention and a 95% rate of preventing the virus’s most severe symptoms. CDC reports, “Each year, more than 3.5 million cases of chickenpox, 9,000 hospitalizations, and 100 deaths are prevented by chickenpox vaccination in the United States.”
Therefore, even if the disease itself is not so deadly as compared to other diseases among kids, it is still a remarkable invention in the field of scientific research and medicine. Today marks the 94th birth anniversary of Michiaki Takahashi. He was born on February 17, 1928, and died on December 16, 2013.