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Leslie Collier

BMJ 2011; 342 doi: (Published 18 May 2011) Cite this as: BMJ 2011;342:d3084
  1. Joanna Lyall

Developed a freeze dried vaccine that helped eradicate smallpox

When Leslie Collier joined the Lister Institute laboratories in 1948, at the age of 27, smallpox was a huge cause of deaths, with an estimated 50 million cases a year worldwide, about a quarter of whom would die, according to the World Health Organization. A vaccine had been developed but unless it was refrigerated it deteriorated quickly.

“To maintain its potency, the vaccine was packed in an insulated wooden box containing a can of frozen water, and sent by post to destinations in the UK, or by air to other countries,” Professor Collier recalled in 1998 in Interdisciplinary Science Reviews (1998;23:340-7).

Unmelted ice

“On arrival, the presence of any unmelted ice indicated the temperature had not risen above 0°C during transit.” In somewhat modest surroundings in Elstree, Hertfordshire, “I was given a laboratory, a junior technician (a young lady straight from school with no laboratory experience) and a little hut that housed …

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