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John Beale

BMJ 2006; 332 doi: (Published 19 January 2006) Cite this as: BMJ 2006;332:181

Virologist at the heart of pioneering vaccine development for half a century

Whether discussing blue sky research with Nobel laureates or the everyday practicalities of drug production at the Wellcome Research Laboratories, John Beale was at the heart of pioneering virology and vaccine development for half a century. The laboratories that he directed created new treatments and tests for polio, viral cancers, malaria, hepatitis B, and HIV/AIDS, and permanently changed the medical landscape.

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In an age when pharmaceutical companies are viewed with increasing distrust, and, in some quarters, outright hostility, the medical developments over which he presided serve to remind us of the contribution the industry has made to public health. Towards the end of his life, however, it was necessary for him to defend key developments such as the MMR (measles, mumps, and rubella) vaccine that his work had helped produce.

His interest in medicine may have been kindled by his childhood experience of looking after his fragile elder sister, Jeanne, who died in 1939 from kidney failure. He began studying medicine at …

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