May 10, 2010
By Mark Blaxill
“Perhaps no other recent product on the market demonstrates successful health care technology transfer better than the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine, Gardasil, produced by Merck & Co. and approved by the FDA in June 2006,” proclaimed a recent National Institutes of Health (NIH) newsletter. In a February 23, 2007 article entitled “From Lab to Market: The HPV Vaccine”, the NIH Record celebrated the pivotal role of government researchers in developing Merck’s Gardasil product. “Based largely on technology developed at NIH,” the newsletter reported, “the vaccine works to prevent four types of the sexually transmitted HPV that together cause 70 percent of all cervical cancer and 90 percent of genital warts (HERE).
The occasion motivating this celebratory article was the “Philip S. Chen, Jr. Distinguished Lecture on Innovation and Technology Transfer” given by Douglas T. Lowy, one of the NIH scientists involved in developing the HPV vaccine. In the ceremony pictured above, Lowy is receiving an honorary poster from the head of NIH at the time, Elias Zerhouni, who took advantage of the occasion to shower praise on his team’s work, one he viewed as a model for future efforts. “It’s a ‘heroic’ story about the effort to fight cervical cancer, the second most deadly cancer for women worldwide, said NIH director Dr. Elias Zerhouni,” in the NIH Record’s account. “He noted that he has talked about the vaccine’s creation to Congress and with the President on his recent visit to NIH. How researchers took the technology ‘from the lab to the marketplace is a journey we can learn from,’ Zerhouni said.”