Partial Transcript: So to begin with, would you just tell us a little bit about your background and training?
Segment Synopsis: Dr. Chumakov discusses growing up the child of two well known Soviet virologists and how his practical work led him to the FDA.
Keywords: A. Sabin; American; annual scientific International symposium; childhood; I. Levenbrook; M. Chumakov; M. Gorbachev; M. Voroshilova; molecular alternative; Moscow; neurovirulence; OPV; oral polio vaccine; polio; residual virulence; V. Agol; virologist
Subjects: Communist Party; FDA; Food and Drug Administration; KGB; Komitet Gosudarstvennoy Bezopasnosti; Lomonosov Moscow State University; Moscow University; perestroika; PNAS; poliomyelitis; Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences; Russia; Soviet Union; Union of Soviet Socialist Republics; United States of America; World Health Organization [WHO]
Partial Transcript: When you developed your interest and involvement in polio work, you sort of specialized in some areas, as well, did you not?
Segment Synopsis: Dr. Chumakov shares his family’s history with polio research and how his early education introduced him to various scientific fields.
Keywords: Abkhazia region; American vaccine; auto mechanics; father; inactivated polio vaccine; Institute of Microbiology; IPV; laboratory of immunology; occupational hazard; oral polio vaccine; poliovirus; professional education; Salk vaccine; Sukhumi; T. Work; tick-borne encephalitis; V. Agol; virology technicians
Subjects: Academy of Sciences; Moscow University; Soviet Union
Partial Transcript: So we are going to talk a bit about the polio vaccine trials in Russia now.
Segment Synopsis: Chumakov shares stories of his father and his father's colleagues during the last days of Josef Stalin's life. After Stalin died, the Communist Party Central Commission ask his father to organize a group to create a polio vaccine.
Keywords: A. Mikoyan; A. Shelokov; Baltic states; case control; clinical trial; eliminated; J. Melnick; J. Stalin; Jewish doctors; licensed; neurovirologist; Sabin Original Merck; Salk vaccine; SOM; vaccine-associated paralytic cases; vaccine-derived virus
Subjects: Academy of Medical Sciences; Communist Party; Communist Party Central Committee; Cuba; Estonia; FDA; Ivanovsky Institute of Virology; Japan; Latvia; Lenin Prize; Merck; Politburo; Soviet Union; vaccine-associated paralytic polio; VAPP; World War II
Partial Transcript: Was he felt to be necessary to get the program going?
Segment Synopsis: Dr. Chumakov shares some personal stories of Albert Sabin and his father’s colleagues and their roles with polio immunization program in the Soviet Union.
Keywords: A. Belyayeva; A. Sabin; A. Smorodintsev; American; B. Petrovsky; cancer therapy; Communist; D. Horstmann; Geneva; H. Koprowski; J. Salk; M. Chumakov; M. Voroshilova; measles vaccine; microbiologist; Minister of Health; Moscow, Russia; nonspecific protection; oncolytic viruses; Philadelphia; plant expression systems; polio vaccine; Russian culture; S. Drosdov; survivor of rabies; V. Soloviev; V. Timakov; viral oncotherapy; virologist; Washington D.C.
Subjects: Academy of Medical Sciences; Communist Party; Far East; FDA; Institute of Oncology; measles; OPV; oral polio vaccine; Russia; Sabin Institute; Soviet Union; Ukraine; United States; WHO
Partial Transcript: Did you ever work with the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices?
Segment Synopsis: Chumakov describes some of the work his laboratory is working on and concludes his interview with the belief that immunization must never stop, even after eradication.
Keywords: C. Burns; environmental surveillance; inactivated vaccines; M. Pallansch; method development; new OPV; O. Kew; polio eradication; polio vaccine; public health epidemiology issue; S. Oberste; sporadic disease; vaccine; vaccine-associated adverse reactions; vaccine-derived polioviruses; wild poliovirus
Subjects: Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices [ACIP]; CDC; Global Polio Laboratory Network
TORGHELE: Today is February 13, 2018. My name is Karen Torghele. We are at theCDC [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] recording studio to talk with Dr. Konstantin [M.] Chumakov for the Global Health Chronicles Oral History of Polio Project. Dr. Chumakov is currently the associate director of the Office of Vaccines Research and Review at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in Washington, D.C. First, let me say thank you for agreeing to participate in this oral history project, and welcome to Atlanta today.
CHUMAKOV: Sure, it's my pleasure.
TORGHELE: So to begin with, would you just tell us a little bit about yourbackground and training?
CHUMAKOV: Well, I was born in Russia in the last century, and born to two quitefamous virologists. My dad was [Dr.] Mikhail [P.] Chumakov, who is most famous for his contribution to development of oral polio vaccine, and my mom was also a virologist, Dr. Marina [K.] Voroshilova, who worked with my dad. In fact, 1:00they've met in Germany working on the outbreak of poliomyelitis in the late 1940s, during the Soviet occupation of East Germany. And I have three brothers, and all of us strangely became scientists. I guess there was a major influence from parents. But I remember, growing up, my dad was pressuring me to go into medicine. And of course, as a teenager, I resisted all I could, but eventually, I ended up being a virologist myself. And it was kind of strange because I tried not to go into virology, but the viruses were so fascinating that I could not resist.
But even after I became a virologist, I tried to stay away from medical issues.2:00Again, it was some kind of rebellious spirit in me, and I tried to do more basic stuff. Probably I was very much influenced by my longtime mentor Professor Vadim [I.] Agol, who actually instilled in me this kind of appreciation of basic science, and he really tried to teach his students to go into the most, as he thought, important things--studying the nature of things. And I preached the same ideas for a long time until at some point in my life I realized that probably my dad was right--that a scientist must do something positive for public health. And it happened with me. In fact, it coincided with my move to 3:00the United States. Because what happened with me--before that, I was working in the Moscow University--and, again, with Professor Vadim Agol--and studying whatever I wanted. Academic freedom in the Soviet Union was quite good at the time, especially in institutions such as Moscow University.
I started with studying viruses that caused paralysis in mice. It had nothing todo with medicine. Then I moved to bacterial phylogeny, studying evolution of bacteria, something completely unrelated to practical issues. And then I met somebody who emigrated to the United States ten years prior, Dr. Inessa [S.] Levenbook, who was a pathologist working at the FDA [Food and Drug 4:00Administration] doing monkey neurovirulence tests of oral polio vaccine. So on her visit to Moscow, somebody introduced us, and we chatted, and we seemed to like each other, and on her return back to the United States, she organized a position for me. And she invited me to come to the United States and work at the FDA to develop a molecular alternative to this monkey neurovirulence test.
Just to explain, what it means is that every batch of vaccine that is given tochildren consists of three independent preparations of three serotypes of vaccine virus, and each is tested in monkeys for residual virulence. So it means that monkeys are injected with this virus into their spinal cord and then killed 5:00after seventeen days, and their CNS [central nervous system] is sectioned and evaluated and scored and so on. So for one batch of vaccine, you need to kill one hundred monkeys. It was really expensive, time-consuming, and cruel. So Inessa wanted to get rid of this test. So we developed a molecular procedure that replaced this test. Not replaced, but produced results that were very much in sync with what monkeys told us. So there was a perfect correlation. And then, after quite a lengthy period of validation and working with the World Health Organization, this test was adopted as a standard lot release test for oral polio vaccine. So that's my entry into the polio field.
TORGHELE: And that was what year?
CHUMAKOV: I came to FDA in 1989, at the end of 1989, and very quickly we6:00realized that quantities of certain mutants in vaccine are directly proportional to the neurovirulence of the vaccine, and it can be used to judge whether vaccine is acceptable or unacceptable. It was made the next year, and I wrote a paper about it, and we wanted to publish in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. I called Dr. Albert [B.] Sabin, because I knew him very well from my childhood because he was my dad's and my mom's friend. And at first, he said, "Well, I'm too old. I decided not to sponsor any papers to the PNAS [Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences]--sorry about that." But then a few days later he called me back, and he said, "You know, of course, I will make an exception from this rule. I will sponsor your paper, but only on the condition 7:00that you will accept all my edits, because, I mean, I see that first of all, you need to change the title." And so I said, "Sure, I'll be glad to accept all your suggestions." So he sponsored this paper, and possibly it was the last paper that he sponsored for the PNAS.
I lost my train of thought.
TORGHELE: We were talking about when you got there.
CHUMAKOV: Right. And then, of course, I sort of felt that finally, I'd donesomething that is practical. So maybe if it will not save human lives, at least it will save the lives of a few monkeys, which is not bad either. So I actually started enjoying working on the practical issues. And by now I will tell you that I think that scientists should always be mindful that what they are doing 8:00should produce some benefit to somebody. I mean, some people think that they are entitled to their experimentation, just asking crazy questions that have no relevance to anything, just because it's science and we have to understand the nature of things. Which is important, but I think that the ultimate goal should always be something that could benefit somebody. I think unfortunately a lot of scientists don't really appreciate it, and some of them even brag about them being completely detached from practical issues. But, hopefully, many people can grow out of this state of mind.
TORGHELE: It sounds like you took your training and your experience and used itfor the good. 9:00
CHUMAKOV: Well, I mean, it just happened, but I unexpectedly enjoyed the outcome.
TORGHELE: Yes, and I'm interested in what your parents said when you ended updoing practical things.
CHUMAKOV: Well, look, my mom passed away before I moved to this country. And mydad, he was very proud. At first, I was sort of expecting him to disapprove my move to the States, because he was a great patriot and his reaction was always negative when people tried to leave the country. But he never told me anything--no disapproval from him. And he was really proud, especially when this paper was published. So he wrote me letters, and he actually wrote letters to Albert, and I always was kind of carrying them, translating and so on. I was 10:00kind of go-in-between them. So he was really very proud.
TORGHELE: When you first came to the United States, Russia was still a part ofthe [Union] of Soviet Socialist Republics?
CHUMAKOV: Yeah, yeah.
TORGHELE: And so politics were difficult or strained between our country and theUSSR, right?
CHUMAKOV: Well, right. I mean, this--unfortunately, nothing's changed, as wesee. Even until now, relations are not the best. When I was starting my career in science at the end of the 1960s, '70s and '80s, of course, there was almost no relations between the United States and the Soviet Union, with few exceptions. Because in some important aspects, such as polio, all the contacts 11:00were quite intense. In fact, a lot of American polio virologists traveled to Moscow every year, because the institute that was organized by my father had this annual scientific International symposium, which was one of the important events in scientific life back then. So everybody who was anybody in this field were there. So that's how I actually met a lot of important polio virologists.
But at the end of the 1980s, when the Soviet Union started to kind of going downthe drain, and there was perestroika. [Mikhail S.] Gorbachev came to power. 12:00There were some--restrictions were lifted, so it became easier to travel. Before that, it was almost impossible unless you were a member of the Communist Party or you had some connections with the KGB [Komitet Gosudarstvennoy Bezopasnosti] or whatever. I tried to go to the United States. I had invitations for a full scholarship to go to the States. I was never allowed to go. And I was not alone. It was an exception, people traveling overseas. It was an exception, and always raised suspicions: Something wrong with this guy. Why did they let him go to America? He must be a KGB. But by the late 1980s, maybe '88--'89, it became easier, so when I got this invitation, it took just a few weeks for me to get my 13:00papers in order and come here.
And then when I came here, I never looked back, because there was no reason forme to return. I mean, the Institute that I just moved from was not really functional. And the conditions that I found here--I mean, the opportunities for research, it was just amazing. I never imagined that it could be so easy. You can pick up the phone, order a reagent, and the next morning it will be at your door. I mean, in the Soviet Union it took a year. First of all, you have to put it on a list--then somebody has to approve it--then it goes somewhere and then a year later you can receive it--maybe not. You never know. So I mean, it was impossible to plan anything. It was just hell. So I immediately decided that I will never go back. So I'm still here. 14:00
TORGHELE: And that's been thirty years?
CHUMAKOV: Almost, yeah--twenty-nine years.
TORGHELE: So over the years, the Soviet Union fell and becamedifferent--separate countries. Did that change anything that you or your family did? Did that change how they were able to work or any of that?
CHUMAKOV: Well, fortunately for me and my family, we all ended up here, becausemy wife and my daughter, they joined me two months later. And so by then, my mom has passed away. Two of my brothers also moved to the West. One brother remained kind of in-between Russia and America, also doing science and traveling. So I mean, I don't have really much of a family left over there. So I don't really 15:00have personal information about what's going on over there. Even though I travel. But when you travel, you don't see it from, you know, you see it from a different perspective. So definitely, the country has changed. Some things changed for the better. Some for the worse, unfortunately, but like I say, I'm lucky that all those changes do not affect me.
TORGHELE: When you developed your interest and involvement in polio work, yousort of specialized in some areas, as well, did you not? And could you describe some of those areas--how you got into vaccine safety and what kinds of things you did?
CHUMAKOV: You mean the history of my research interests? Well, I started very16:00early. In fact, I got into a lab at the age of fifteen. And the reason is that when I was in high school, I had a brother who is one year older than myself--Peter. And so we were in the same class, because I started a year early because we were almost like twins. In the Soviet Union, there was a great education--professional education. In the ninth and the tenth grade, everybody was supposed to get some profession. In our school, boys were supposed to become auto mechanics. So we first started the automobile design and so on, how to service it and so on. And then we had to practice in the second part of the ninth grade. And our practice was at the garage of the Academy of Sciences, and 17:00it was cold, and it smelled (of) gasoline. It was so nasty, and I hated it, and my brother hated it so much. So we went crying to our mom and asked her--begged her to do something about it.
So she was quite an ingenious lady. She went to the school director, and shesaid, "Look, I will arrange so that my boys will get alternative professional education. I will take them to our Institute, and we have a course for technicians, virology technicians, and I guarantee that we will give them their certificate of technician virologists." So that's what happened. So basically, she transferred us out from this garage--you know, from the auto shop to her 18:00lab. And it was fascinating because I was fifteen at the time, and it was really, for a teenager, just such an experience. We started in the lab of histology, learned how to prepare formalin-fixed tissues, sliced them, stained, and so on, and then there was a laboratory of immunology where we learned how to grow virus and do some immunology test. Then there was a laboratory of electron microscopy, so we worked on the electron microscope. It was amazing for a schoolboy. And then finally, it was the laboratory of biochemistry in which Professor Agol worked. And so, it was 1967, so now it's fifty-one years later, and we're still collaborating with him. So it's remarkable.
So, I mean, that's how I got into science in the first place. So it was throughthis kind of professional education at school, even though it was an alternative 19:00track for two privileged boys. And then I decided that I liked viruses very much. And I got into Moscow University, and from the first year, I started working--continued, actually, working in Vadim Agol's lab in the university, studying mouse encephaloyocarditis virus, and then he gave me quite a lot of latitude in terms of what to work on. Now over the years, I worked on different things and developed some contacts with other scientists, and at some point in my life, I drifted into the bacterial systematics. And then because of that, I was invited to organize a lab in the Institute of Microbiology in the Academy of Sciences in Moscow. Fortunately, I only spent a year and a half over there, 20:00because it was clearly a bad choice. The Institute was in such bad shape, so poor and completely ill-equipped for anything of the nature that I would really want to do. But then there was an opportunity to move forward, which I did.
TORGHELE: And before we move into the next phase of what we're going to talkabout, I wanted to know about your family's involvement with polio. I know that both your parents were affected by viruses in different ways, and different viruses, and you as well. And I wondered if you would talk about that for a minute.
CHUMAKOV: Yeah, right. It started with my dad, because he as a young doctor whohad just graduated from Moscow Medical School--Moscow University at the time. He 21:00got into microbiology, and he was a part of the big expedition into the Soviet Far East, to the Khabarovsk region, to investigate the origin of the newly discovered disease, which was called tick-borne encephalitis. They have quickly realized that this was a tick-borne something, and then they isolated the virus, and it was clear that this was a new virus. But during this expedition, my father got infected with the virus himself. And the way it happened is that they had two teams working in separate villages. And they were looking for patients 22:00and then isolating virus, and in the team that my dad was in--it was the southern team--all of a sudden, they had a case of tick-borne encephalitis, and the patient died. But the pathologist who had the proper set of tools to perform autopsy, he traveled to another team, to the northern camp. And my dad was so impatient, so he decided to perform the autopsy with just basically tools not designed for this. And he injured his right hand with the skull bone, and as a result, he got infected.
He then developed A high fever, and he was transferred to a hospital, and then23:00he described how he lost his hearing. He said that the night before it happened, it was summer. He was in his ward, and the windows were open, and he heard the orchestra playing in the park nearby, and he said that he could not bear this noise because the music was so loud. It probably was because of the inflammation in his nervous system. And then in the morning, he couldn't hear anything. So it was kind of the last thing that he heard, and he also had his right arm paralyzed, which never regained mobility. So for the rest of his life, from the time he was twenty-seven until he passed away at eighty-three, he used just one arm, and he had to use a hearing aid, a very strong one, to communicate. So he 24:00was actually a victim of this tick-borne encephalitis for almost all his life.
My mom also got infected with the poliovirus at the time when she was workingwith monkeys for several months--maybe a year--my parents spent in Sukhumi. This is a part of Georgia. Now it's not even a part of Georgia but is a breakaway Abkhazia region. When Georgia broke away from the Soviet Union, Abkhazia broke away from Georgia, so it's quite a messy political situation. But back then it was a very prosperous region on the Black Sea. It's a resort, you know, nice climate, and there was a colony of monkeys. So since a lot of polio work was done in monkeys, so my parents moved and lived for probably close to a year. 25:00When I was a few months old until I was maybe two years old, I also spent in Sukhumi. And that's where my mom got infected, possibly as a result of some accident with a monkey. And I remember her walking with a cane. She was partially paralyzed. But then she recovered.
But she told me that when she was nursing me, and she got infected withpoliovirus, I'd just started walking, and then I all of a sudden stopped walking, and I had some fever and so on. So she thought that I also had a kind of polio, but very mild form. So I mean, I'm still alive, and don't have any consequences of this, except for a very high titer of antibodies. So both my 26:00parents actually experienced this occupational hazard.
TORGHELE: And when you got polio, and your mother, that was before there was avaccine available?
CHUMAKOV: Right, yeah, it was 1953-'54, possibly this timeframe. So there was novaccine back then. So obviously she was working with polio for quite some time and still was not immune, which is remarkable.
TORGHELE: And when the vaccine was available, how did that affect your family?
CHUMAKOV: Well, of course, all of us kids were guinea pigs. I remember the firstshot of IPV [inactivated polio vaccine] we got was an American vaccine, because Dr. Telford Work, who traveled on his car--I think he traveled from China to 27:00Europe, and he stopped by Moscow, and it was amazing to see a huge American car in Moscow at the time. It was just amazing. And he brought vaccine with him. So we got this American Salk vaccine in 1956, maybe, or '57. And then, of course, when the institute that my father organized started producing IPV, of course, we got Russian vaccine as well. And then when they switched to produce oral polio vaccine-- the first company in the world that ever made OPV [oral polio vaccine]. We also were subjects of unofficial clinical trials, and then my mom had a theory that OPV can induce a nonspecific protective effect against other viruses. They even conducted the clinical trial when they used OPV during the 28:00outbreak of influenza with a very good result, remarkable results that are published. And so that's why every winter during the flu season, she would give us OPV.
So I was immunized quite a lot with this vaccine, and possibly as the result ofthis very long affinity maturations, my antibodies developed to the point that recently we've discovered an antibody that neutralizes all three serotypes. So eventually, this maturation of my antibodies went to the extreme, so that one single antibody can kill all three viruses, and as far as I know, this is the only case that is known to science. Nobody looked carefully, but I attribute it 29:00to this long training of my immune system.
TORGHELE: Your family would be interesting to study.
CHUMAKOV: Right. Maybe all of us have this.
TORGHELE: So we are going to talk a bit about the polio vaccine trials in Russianow. So would you describe your father's role in the scientific world of the USSR in the 1950s and '60s first?
CHUMAKOV: Well, I mean, he was quite a famous scientist, because, after thatepisode with tick-borne encephalitis and his kind of aura of a hero who sacrificed his health for science and discovery, of course, he was made a member of the Academy of Medical Sciences. He had all the accolades, so by the time he 30:00was in his early forties he became a director of the main virological establishment, the Ivanovsky Institute of Virology. And he stayed for a couple of years until in 1953 he was fired. Because at the time it was the last months or weeks of [Joseph V.] Stalin's life, and Stalin started this famous or infamous doctor's case when he accused doctors, mostly Jewish doctors, in plotting to kill Party leaders. So they were all arrested, and there was quite a significant campaign to discredit Jewish scientists, doctors, and so on. So in the institute that my father worked in, there were a substantial number of 31:00Jewish doctors. And he was ordered to fire them, but he refused. He said, "I didn't hire them because they are Jewish. I hired them because I need them to do what they do."
So then he was fired himself. And he was not only fired, but he was fired fromthe Communist Party membership. And in the Soviet Union, it was extremely important. It gave a protection, and it was a kind of sign of legitimacy. And for him personally, it was also a big issue. So for a number of years, until 1955, he was still working. He was never arrested, because the whole doctor's case unraveled. I mean, they were all eventually freed after Stalin died, but then in 1955, he was summoned to the Communist Party Central Committee, which 32:00actually orchestrated everything. I mean, it was above the government. It was the ruling body that was kind of supreme governing authority in the Soviet Union. And he was asked to organize an institute that would study and develop a vaccine against poliomyelitis, and of course, it was triggered by licensure, in 1955, of Salk vaccine in the United States. So the Soviet Union wanted to catch up. But he said, "Well, look, I cannot do it because I was denounced," essentially he was. And they said, "Well, let's just get it back. I mean, no problem. We can restore your party membership and everything." 33:00
So obviously, they wanted him to get involved because I think that they realizedthat he was probably the best person to do it in the Soviet Union. He was really a neurovirologist of supreme standing. And then he and my mom and Professor Smoridentsev traveled to America for a few months, accompanied by a KGB person. Dr. Alexis Shelokov, who was a prominent American biologist of Russian extraction, was their host. They traveled throughout the country from the East Coast to the West Coast. They met everybody who was in the field--Dr. [Albert] Sabin, Dr. [Jonas] Salk, everybody who was working. So they learned everything that was going on, and when they came back to Moscow, they immediately started 34:00producing IPV. So they set up a manufacturing facility, and by 1957 it was up and running, and the vaccine was being made.
But my dad realized that, of course, with the IPV, first of all, it wasexpensive and the Soviet Union was not a rich country. So he realized that they cannot really make much progress with IPV alone. And by then Dr. Sabin convinced him that OPV is the way to go, and he brought the first sample of vaccine to Russia, and my father organized a clinical trial--first a small one, which showed remarkable results, and then they have done a really large-scale study that changed the whole picture. Because they have immunized in the Baltic states 35:00that were recently captured by the Soviets, they were independent previously before the World War II, and there was a big outbreak of poliomyelitis in Estonia and Latvia, so this vaccine was tested in these countries and completely eliminated polio. It was a remarkable success.
So that's how the vaccine got licensed in Russia, even though there was no suchthing as licensure in the formal sense. And that's how Sabin eventually convinced the American FDA to give permission for clinical trials [in the U.S.], and then it was licensed here in this country in 1962 and '63. But in Russia, it was successfully used in 1959 and '60. And not only in Russia, but the vaccine 36:00was produced in such quantities that it was exported into close to a hundred countries. Not only the Soviet Union bloc and Cuba, which used the Soviet vaccine to completely eradicate polio in 1962, but also to countries such as Japan. In 1960 and '61, there was an enormous outbreak of poliomyelitis in Japan, which was stopped by Soviet vaccine. And I remember in 1962, my parents traveled to Japan. Basically, it was a victory lap. I mean, they were invited, and they were honored, and they brought back Japanese newspapers and magazines with pictures of them shaking hands and so on. So it was really a triumph for this vaccine.
Of course, it opened the possibility of this vaccine being licensed everywhere.37:00So that was the triggering event, and Dr. Sabin completely appreciated this role. He even wrote a paper called something like "The role of international cooperation with Soviet scientists in polio vaccine development"--something like this. And Sabin, in fact, I read this paper, and he attributed the success to the superiority of the Socialist system, you know? He probably--I never spoke with him about politics, but he was probably on the left side of the spectrum, so he actually thought that this victory is just another example of how the Soviet system is superior to the American system. But he was not right about that. I can tell you that, because it would have never been approved if it was not for the particular character of my father. Because what happened, in 38:00reality, was that he did not get the permission for immunization. So they prepared the vaccine, but the Ministry of Health would not release it. They would drag their feet. They would actually do what normally all the regulatory authorities would do. I mean, they would try to stop it and try to make sure that everything is fine and okay, and it would have been going on forever. But my father was quite an impatient person. I mean, he wanted to do it now. He didn't want to hear about anything that could be wrong with this vaccine.
In the Soviet Union, there was a system of kind of internal communicationbetween the top levels of bureaucracy--only the members of the Politburo, only ministers had the special hotline. You could pick up and speak directly to 39:00another minister or whoever. So my father didn't have this, of course. He was way down the chain, but once he was in somebody's office and somebody stepped out, so he grabbed this hotline and he called Anastas [I.] Mikoyan. He was a member of the Politburo, and he was responsible for medicine in general. So the Minister of Health reported to him. So he was a kind of a god. He was one of maybe twelve--the most powerful people in the Soviet Union.
So my father quickly told him, "Anastas Ivanovich, I have a good vaccine, butthe Minister of Health doesn't let me use it. What should I do?" And he said, "Mikhail Petrovich, are you sure it's a good vaccine?" "Yes, it's a good vaccine." "Immunize." Hang up. So that's how it happened. So without any 40:00permissions, they started a clinical trial, and by the time the results were in, nobody dared to say a thing. So I mean, everybody--of course, next year, they got a Lenin Prize, which was the top scientific award, so it was a lot of honors and so on. But a lot of people who resisted him--and they remembered this. So, they actually never forgave him, that he basically swept them aside and did what he wanted to do. So I think that without this phone call with this hotline, maybe nothing would have happened. And the Soviet Union and the Socialist system had nothing to do with it. It was not because of the Socialist system, but despite it. So that's the story that I heard from him. That's what he told me. And my mom also was very much involved in all these things, and so something 41:00that is not getting published officially.
TORGHELE: So they sort of took matters into their own hands?
CHUMAKOV: Yeah, absolutely. I mean, he was this kind of person, and if he knewthat he is right, he wouldn't listen. It could be good, it could be bad, but that's what he was. And in most cases, he was right, fortunately. So, in this case, it was really a shortcut that he took that saved a lot of lives. I'm not saying that this is the way to go for everybody, but this is what happened.
TORGHELE: Was he personally acquainted with the man who gave him permission?
CHUMAKOV: No, he wasn't. But he probably heard of--definitely, when he wasappointed the director of this institute, of course, Mikoyan was involved. Of course, he knew about him, because without him, it could not have happened. I 42:00mean, he knew what he was. And he trusted--obviously, he trusted him. You know, can you imagine somebody calling you on the hotline and you make a decision just on the spot without knowing who this is? But they never personally knew each other.
TORGHELE: That's interesting. Now, the clinic--you say there were clinicalvaccine trials, but they were different from the Salk vaccine trials, for instance, right? How did they conduct them? Did they have case-controls, or did they just vaccinate everyone?
CHUMAKOV: I'm not sure. Back then, I'm not even sure they had this concept ofcase-control. It was a different era. It was, like, more than sixty years ago. I think that what happened, they just immunized, and they looked at the overall morbidity. They counted how many cases in the control group, and how many 43:00cases--and at the time, there were control groups, and there were people who were not immunized versus those who were immunized. Yeah, and I cannot really say exactly technical aspects of these clinical trials, because I was a kid back then. But my understanding is that it was just very simple.
TORGHELE: Was there any difference in the vaccine that was made in Russia fromthe Sabin vaccine made in the United States?
CHUMAKOV: Yes, it was different, because--my understanding is that they both arederived from the stock that Sabin produced in 1956 and gave to Merck, which is called SOM--Sabin Original Merck. It's like a hundred-ml [milliliter] vial that he produced, and it's ampuled, and it's stored somewhere. But the vaccine that 44:00was produced in Russia was derived from a different stock, a different lineage. And I think in 1959, SV40 [Simian Virus 40] was discovered in inactivated vaccine--and so this was a kind of, quite an interesting story. When the SV40 was discovered--and it was not inactivated, because the virus resists formalin inactivation more than poliovirus--and then it was found that this SOM stock also contains SV40. Before OPV was licensed in this country, SV40 was removed from this stock. In Russia, it was licensed before, and when they heard that 45:00there is a virus, so they used a method to get rid of it. So the first lots, they contained SV40, but then they used this method developed by [Dr. Joseph L.] Joe Melnick, by treatment with high temperature with one molar magnesium chloride to inactivate SV40 and protect the poliovirus. And my understanding is that in the United States and other countries, they've used antibodies to get rid of SV40.
So the history of stocks is slightly different. But it's not unique to Russianvaccine because, in fact, a lot of countries have their own versions of Sabin's strain. For instance, Japan. They have done quite substantial passaging with 46:00this material to generate their own seed viruses, so there is quite a lot of heterogeneity. I mean, they all are called Sabin's strains, but they differ from each other by a few passages, and as we know now, by sequencing. There are quite a few mutations. But this does not affect their safety or their effectiveness.
TORGHELE: What were the safety records like from the trials?
CHUMAKOV: Well, at the time, it was not a big concern. In fact, I think thatSabin never admitted that his vaccine triggers vaccine-associated paralytic cases. In fact, one of the things that he changed in the title of my paper was to remove any reference to mutations. He hated the word mutation because, in his 47:00mind, mutation was something bad, and even though in this case, it was really bad--I mean, you can demonstrate it. And he said, "No, use nucleotide change, don't use mutation." So he was really not accepting the fact that this vaccine rarely causes these problems.
And I think he was not alone. When you have thousands of cases of paralyticdisease, you don't really care about one in a thousand or one in a million adverse reactions. Of course, they probably were adverse reactions caused by OPV, but first of all, it was even difficult to diagnose it back then. I mean, how would you do this? There was no molecular methods to investigate the cause of a particular case. So I think it only came to the forefront maybe in the late 48:001980s, when all these molecular techniques became available, and it was proven beyond doubt that those rare cases are caused by vaccine-derived virus. Because without this evidence, how can you tell? If a kid got paralyzed, I mean, who knows what it was?
TORGHELE: So when VAPP [vaccine-associated paralytic poliomyelitis] and whencontact-associated paralyses were identified, did that change the program at all?
CHUMAKOV: You mean eradication program and the immunization? Of course,definitely. Because it became clear beyond doubt, I think, by early to mid-1980s. And that's why countries that already did not have significant wild type circulation, such as the United States and Europe--they realized that this 49:00vaccine causes a few cases of paralytic disease that is triggered by vaccine itself, and it became really unacceptable. Because, I mean, there is no risk of getting wild virus, crippling, even three or four kids a year for no reason. I think it's just ethically unacceptable. And that's why these countries switched back to inactivated vaccine. And fortunately, by then, a new version of this inactivated vaccine, which is called enhanced potency IPV, was developed. So it was available for wide use. Of course, this was the most immediate effect of this discovery of vaccine-associated--vaccine-derived virulent viruses.
TORGHELE: Dr. Sabin was over in Russia for a while--50:00
TORGHELE: When this was all going on. Was he felt to be necessary to get theprogram going? Was he a necessary component to your dad?
CHUMAKOV: Well, definitely, he provided the virus, and he provided his expertisein these--he developed them, so he knew how to deal with them, how to grow them, how to make sure that they don't mutate. Because he realized that this virus can easily change. He knew it. That's one of the reasons why he wanted this virus to be used in campaign--this vaccine. He insisted that it should not be a kind of case-by-case immunization, but rather the whole cohort of newborn children be immunized on one day. And I think there was a reason for this. Later, it was 51:00found that it may not be critical, so you can successfully immunize children even on a kind of case-by-case routine basis, not as a campaign. But he definitely advised my dad about how to set it up and [was] instrumental in this way, definitely, he was. And he actually, I think, enjoyed coming to see such progress that was made with his baby.
TORGHELE: It sounds like your father, and he had a good personal relationship, too.
CHUMAKOV: Oh, yeah, yeah. They were remarkable. I mean, when they were together,there was just, like--they couldn't have enough of each other. So they were talking and they were even singing together. It was amazing. Albert Sabin was a 52:00very, kind of, interesting--I saw a very kind side of him. He was always smiling. He was always in a cheerful mood when he was in Moscow. And then after I moved to the United States, I met him quite often. He was always very nice to me, but I've heard that he could be very, kind of, rough with people. I mean, he was quite opinionated. He knew what he knew, and he would not give anything to anybody. If he disagreed, he would argue with you, and he could be very harsh. But they were very good friends.
And with me, of course, definitely, he looked at me as my father's son. And Imust say that I learned quite a lot from him. And the first thing, when I was 53:00already starting at university, and I was trying to become a virologist, I remember that Sabin once came to Moscow, and my father had him over at our house. And he said, "Okay, young man, what are you doing?" And I say, "Well, I'm studying viruses." "Viruses? What viruses?" "Encephalomyocarditis virus." He said, "Why?" And I said, "Well, because it's a good model virus. It's easy to study certain aspects. It's a model virus." "Model of what?" I said, "Well, model of poliomyelitis." "Why don't you study poliovirus?" And I had no answer. Because I just repeated what I heard from Vadim Agol. I mean, he said we're studying EMC [encephalomyocarditis] virus because it's a good model. Okay. We're studying because it's a good model. I didn't bother to think, why not just go to the very thing that you are trying to model? I was stunned that I had no answer, 54:00and maybe it sort of started this process in me, thinking that maybe at some point I should do something useful.
TORGHELE: It sounds like he became a kind of mentor to you.
CHUMAKOV: Yeah, you know, definitely. I mean, this episode, plus the time Ispent with him working on this manuscript, and then we were discussing a lot of things that related to polio, so definitely I learned a lot. I mean, he was a remarkable scientist. He worked alone most of his life, and he discovered so many things that are so far ahead of his time. I remember in his apartment on New Mexico Avenue here in Washington, D.C., he had a closet full of his reprints, and it was very well organized. For instance, we would sit at the 55:00kitchen table, and he would tell me something about some, "By the way, I published in 1955," and he would go to his closet and pull the reprint, make a copy for me, and then would write on it and show me: "You see, in this table, you see, I had six monkeys here and nine monkeys there, and would--" He remembered all this. He was so meticulous, and he discovered so many things that until now, we cannot understand--I mean, probably will never understand, because his virus is almost gone. And he found so many interesting things that he didn't have a chance to follow up, but his papers--I mean, I wish--maybe at some point, I will go back and reread his papers, and there are some very interesting observations that I cannot explain until now. He was a remarkable, a very 56:00profound scientist.
TORGHELE: Did you come to know his family at all?
CHUMAKOV: Yeah. I knew Heloisa, his second wife. I never met his kids. Maybe Ijust--probably I met them at the funeral, but you know, I never was introduced. I don't really know. I remember his first wife in the early 1960s, and then Heloisa, who was a very beautiful young lady at the time. And we visited when they lived in Washington, so we visited each other a couple of times, so I have quite a few photographs together from these family gatherings.
TORGHELE: I'm curious about what your family meals were like when you were57:00growing up, and you would have those famous virologists at your table.
CHUMAKOV: Well, look, I mean, when you were kids, you grow in the environmentthat is given to you. I mean, looking back, of course, I realize--and how lucky I was to be put into this situation. It really gave me a big boost in my scientific career and development, definitely, because I knew all these people. It's very different when you read somebody's paper, and compared to when you know somebody personally. And after I came to this country, a lot of friends of my parents, when they learned that I'm here, they would invite me and they would really--I felt special. I say, why? And it was really--I was so proud that my 58:00dad was really so respected, to the point that people wanted to basically do something good for me just because I'm a son of my father. So it was really very nice.
TORGHELE: It sounds like your mom was a scientist in her own right.
CHUMAKOV: Right. Yeah, I think that, yeah, she was definitely a very, very goodscientist. And together they constituted a very kind of nice--they complemented each other. Because my father was not very diplomatic. I mean, he was a very straight shooter. He was like a really, very--[a] powerhouse, and she was in many ways the brain behind it--the whole operation--because she was very smart, 59:00she was very diplomatic, she was very likable. She could charm anybody. If she wanted to do something, she could do it. She could talk anybody into doing almost anything. Just like I told you the story about the school director. I mean, come on, how many people can do this? To convince--in the Soviet Union, it's just such a rigid system. But still, she could do it. Together, they were almost invincible. It was kind of a very smooth operation between then.
And she had a lot of very important insights. I already told you that she hadthis theory about this nonspecific protection against flu and other diseases. And at some point, she became obsessed with this, because the way they realized it is that when they were conducting clinical trials of OPV, they were having the control group, and they would isolate viruses from--for instance, like a 60:00hundred people, were immunized with OPV and a hundred people were left as controls. And they would isolate--from throat swabs, stool, whatever sample you can get, they would isolate viruses. There would be a couple of adenoviruses, a couple of rotaviruses, a couple of this and that, definitely never a healthy population. There would be some people who carry viruses asymptomatically. But when you give OPV, there is just zero. It's only Sabin strain. So all other viruses were wiped out. And it's a known phenomenon, but she was really surprised by this. And then she started to do it more systematically, so she started giving it as a kind of nonspecific vaccine, and it's published. It's published in Russian. Unfortunately, I don't think it was ever published in 61:00English literature, but it was remarkable.
And then she also realized that in some of the clinical trials, people withcancer would have remissions after OPV was given. So she started using it as a cancer therapy. Now it's a huge field. Look, I mean, these oncolytic viruses are now very hot. It's a very hot topic. She was doing it forty years ago, and everybody was laughing. First, they were laughing, and then they were starting trying to stop her. So, of course, the Institute of Oncology in Moscow, their director, who was also the president of the Academy of Medical Science--he was mad because some virologist is trying to invade his field, and with good results. So she got a lot of grief for initiating something that was forty years ahead of its time. So I wish she would have lived to see that whatever she was 62:00trying to tell the world is now accepted. And sadly, nobody references--and it's published. It's published, including English literature by her in the 1970s. And I see a lot of papers now published about this viral oncotherapy. Nobody bothers to quote it. So, I mean, it's just sad. But I know that it was her, that she was first to think about it. So for me, it's enough.
TORGHELE: So you had quite a set of parents.
CHUMAKOV: Well, yeah, I'm a lucky man.
TORGHELE: You mentioned some of the other scientists who worked with your fatherand Sabin in the USSR. I thought maybe we would talk about some of them and what 63:00your memories are of them, and some of them you'll probably remember more than others. So whatever you have about them would be fine. And you'll have to help me with pronunciation of some of them. Anatoly [A.] Smorodintsev?
CHUMAKOV: Yeah, Anatoly Smorodintsev. He was kind of also a senior virologist inthe Soviet Union, and I would think he was maybe five to seven years older than my dad. There always was some distance between them, in terms of--they were kind of very respectful for each other. Anatoly Smorodintsev was one of the first proponents of live oral polio vaccine. He worked on this much earlier than my dad. He claimed that he developed his own strain. I'm not sure if it's true. 64:00It's not clear to me. But he is more famous for his experimentation on his own family and friends. For instance, he immunized his granddaughter with some strain that was passaged in human gut for ten times--knowing that the virus is not genetically stable--not completely. Even Sabin didn't do it. But Smorodintsev tried to prove that this vaccine is absolutely genetically stable. So he would give it to a person, then isolate virus from stool, then give it to another person, and just make these serial passages through human gut. And then to prove that it's safe, he gave it to his granddaughter. So I don't know. There 65:00is a limit to what even cutting corners should be. But he is famous for this kind of experimentation.
At some point, my father and Anatoly kind of split their ways. I mean, there wassomething between them, some kind of bad blood. But then they got back into good graces with each other. I guess maybe in every relationship there is sometimes a period of strain. But I know that my father always respected him very much, because he definitely was quite a good virologist. And his son actually also became a virologist. So there was something in common between them, as well.
TORGHELE: What about A.P. Belyayeva?66:00
CHUMAKOV: Anna [P.] Belyayeva. Well, she was one of the associates of my father,and I remember her because, in a way, she worked a lot with my mom as well. So they were all part of the same institute. And I mostly have childhood recollections about her, because by the time I got involved in science, she was already retired. So I just remember seeing her, and I remember my parents talking about her, but not much more.
TORGHELE: It sounds like women were accepted as scientists at an earlier timethan they were here.
CHUMAKOV: I don't know. Possibly not. Look, my mom was--I told you she was quitean unusual person--I mean female. She had her own strain of feminism. She said 67:00it's so much easier for a woman to get ahead in life in the Soviet Union. Be mindful that the Soviet Union and Russian culture is really not like the United States. Men are way up. Women are considered to be kind of always subordinate. But she told me that, for instance, she used to be among men. For instance, she would go to a meeting that everybody would be men and she would be just one woman. So everybody would stand up and say, "Oh, please sit." Or if she would start speaking, everybody would turn their head and say, "Oh, it's a woman speaking, and she's smart." And she said, "For me, it's so easy, no problem. I'm just being myself, and I have no problems even in this male-dominated society." 68:00I mean, she did it with a smile, and she never got upset if somebody would do something. So she knew how to achieve what she wanted without confrontation. So I guess it's kind of more a female trait.
TORGHELE: It sounds like she had a unique set of benefits, too.
CHUMAKOV: She was a smart woman. I think that explains everything. She knew whatshe wanted to do and knew the circumstances that she was in, and she tried to find the best way to achieve what she wanted. And in most cases, she did.
TORGHELE: What about Valentin [D.] Soloviev?
CHUMAKOV: Oh, yeah, Valentin Soloviev. He was a virologist. He worked also with69:00my father in this expedition in the Far East. And after my father got sick with tick-borne encephalitis, Valentin--I think he claimed that he also got sick. But it didn't last. I don't know. I heard that he claimed also to be a victim. They were not really good friends. He was a little younger than my dad, I think. Maybe a couple of years younger. So they were never friends, and at some point, they even became kind of quite adversarial, especially later in life. 70:00
In the Soviet Union in the Academy of Sciences, there were two tiers. One wasacademician, and there was also corresponding member. It was a kind of first step to become a full member of the Academy of Sciences. And I think what happened is that my mom got elected to this first tier and she was running against Soloviev. And she got a unanimous vote. He didn't get a single vote. And he got there the next year, but I think it offended him so much that he tried to do all his best, wherever he could, to stop my dad's initiatives. And after polio, my dad tried to make a measles vaccine. They prepared a very good vaccine 71:00that was tested in the Ukraine, completely wiping out measles in the mid-1960s. And then Soloviev and the Minister of Health, [Dr.] Boris [V.] Petrovsky, conspired to kill the vaccine. So they ordered destruction of ten million doses of the measles vaccine and, of course, measles came back with a vengeance. And for the next twenty years, thousands of kids died, because of this rivalry. It was just amazing. It was amazing. And that shows you the benefits of the Socialist system. When just two people can conspire against something that would be otherwise--
And my dad was just--he couldn't really forget about it. I mean, it was just the72:00worst thing that could happen to him. Then he switched to a flu vaccine and, again, the last twenty years of my dad's life were miserable, because the entire establishment tried to stop everything that he was doing. I mean, I guess they could not forgive him this triumph with polio and the way he achieved it. In the long run, it backfired on him, because those who were in power, starting from the Minister of Health and officials in the Academy of Medical Sciences, they tried to do everything--they would not let anything that he came up with--and it was so sad to see. And he tried to fight it, and nothing came out of it. 73:00
TORGHELE: It was just because of professional jealousy?
CHUMAKOV: It's very hard to say. It was a professional jealousy plus personalfriends that--I told you that my father was quite a straight shooter. For instance, at first, he was friends with Boris Petrovsky, who was the Minister of Health. He was a surgeon. They were about the same time in medical school, so they knew each other. So my father didn't even think twice about how he should talk with him. And once at some meeting at the minister's office, in the presence of everybody else, he told him, "You know, Boris, I've seen a lot of fools in this chair, but not such a fool as you." And, of course, Petrovsky blew [his] lid, basically said, "Never again set your foot in my office," and so on. There were a lot of things that, objectively speaking, my father may have said 74:00publicly and so on. So I mean, it was a combination of very explosive personalities and professional jealousy and everything else.
So I don't know. It's very hard to tell. But I think it's wrong when theseissues stand in the way of doing good things. You know, basically doing their job. And these people who were charged in protecting public health actually could do this thing. I mean, just because Chumakov developed this measles vaccine, why do they have to destroy ten million doses? Maybe the vaccine was not perfect. Maybe there was something that could be done to make it better. But it eliminated measles in a country of fifty million people. It should not be discounted easily. I mean, if it was somebody else, maybe the vaccine would not 75:00have been destroyed. But it was a kind of clash between personalities. Unfortunately, I think it's not unique to the Soviet Union and Russia. These things happen. Everybody's human. But it's just what happened.
TORGHELE: It must have been very difficult for your father.
CHUMAKOV: Oh, it was. Because the feeling was that the noose is tightening, youknow? First, during the measles story, he realized that it's a personal thing. So at some point, he offered to resign from the position as institute director on two conditions: that the vaccine would be approved, and that the new director would be his student, Sergei Drosdov. And of course, the second part of the 76:00offer was immediately accepted, so he was removed and appointed deputy director for science, basically overseeing the development part of the institute portfolio, and Drosdov was appointed the director. But the vaccine was never approved. Step-by-step, Drosdov drifted to the other side, because he realized that he better have good relations with those who are above him rather than retain loyalty to his teacher and mentor.
It was kind of a gradual process of removing things that he needed for work.77:00Like for instance, he was handicapped. He had just his one left hand. So they would take away his secretary. Once he had to climb a ladder to pull a file from a shelf, and he fell and broke his only working arm just because this bastard (I'm talking about Sergei Drosdov) took away his secretary. I mean, he needed somebody to be there every single minute. And looking--not from a distance, because I was close--it was just so sad. But it was just a feeling of hopelessness. You can do nothing about it. And my father never actually came to grips with this. He was upset. He had a lot of emotions about it, but he could 78:00do nothing. That's sad that the latest part of his life actually was not really the happiest part.
TORGHELE: He was quite a devoted Communist, too.
CHUMAKOV: Right. Look, in my vocabulary, it's a dirty word, and I cannot use itto my father. He definitely was a Communist. He was a member of the Communist Party and he actually tried to maintain all attributes. For instance, in his office, he had these photographs of all Communist Party leaders next to Albert Sabin and his grandchildren. So I mean, it's remarkable. For him it was. He had 79:00a very humble background. His father was a veterinarian, a peasant, essentially, and his mom was illiterate peasant. I mean, she only learned to read when she was seventy-five years of age. I mean, it's amazing. So for him the Soviet--this revolution and everything, he thought that it gave him everything. So, of course, he was very loyal. And since he was deaf, he could not hear a lot of things that other people hear, so he was kind of frozen from that enthusiastic revolutionary era when Communism was something that is a bright future and so on. By the time I lived, it was stagnant, corrupt, and immoral. And most people in my generation--I have a visceral reaction to this. 80:00
So he somehow associated himself with this ideology of Communism. Even though henever followed it in his daily life. He was a normal person. He was a kind, good person. He was not a Communist. He didn't kill anybody. He did not approve of this mass repression. My interpretation of this is that he was a product of his generation when it was atheism, so they basically burned out this religious--so there was a void that must be filled with something. So they stuffed this Communist pseudo-ideology, pseudo-religion, wherever the soul of a person must be. So for him, it was a kind of surrogate for religion. So he was a very practical and pragmatic good scientist, working on very concrete and practical 81:00things. But when he had to use his kind of emotional side--he switched to another hemisphere of his brain, and it was stuffed with something that was kind of amorphous, something good. He called it Communism. I would call it just being a decent man. So it's very complicated. I mean, I wouldn't call him a Communist because I mean he would just say the right words, but he will do the right things.
TORGHELE: You mentioned, too, some other people that we had talked aboutearlier. Vladimir Timakov?
CHUMAKOV: Yes, he was a microbiologist, and he was president of the Academy ofMedical Sciences. So they haven't connected a lot, and I saw him a couple of 82:00times. I think he was a decent man. But I have no personal knowledge of what his role was in this polio story. I think that he was definitely involved in some capacity, because he was the chief medical scientist in the country, but I don't think that he was professionally involved in polio, because he was just a microbiologist--I mean, a bacteriologist, not a virologist.
TORGHELE: Before the United States accepted the live vaccine to be used there,they sent someone to evaluate the results of the vaccine trials in Russia. And her name was [Dr.] Dorothy Horstmann. You knew her?
CHUMAKOV: Yes, I knew her from the time when she came to Russia. And, of course,83:00again my recollections of her back then were of a kid. I knew that she was an American and colleague of my parents and I saw her, but nothing more. But then I met her in Washington in Cosmos Club when there was some--I don't remember what was the occasion. I think it was the dedication of the Sabin Institute after his passing. I think there was some event, and I saw her there and we--of course, I introduced myself again, and she remembered and so it was--but at the time I think she was not active scientifically. It was just kind of more a social occasion.
TORGHELE: She must have been pleased to see what work you were doing.84:00
CHUMAKOV: Yeah, I mean, a lot of people, like I say, they were very kind to me,and it was a reflection on my father, I think.
TORGHELE: What about Hilary Koprowski?
CHUMAKOV: Oh, [Dr.] Hilary Koprowski, yeah, he was a remarkable person. Iremember him very well from the time in Moscow, because I remember that I think my mom told me that he was the only survivor of rabies. As if he got sick with rabies and he survived, which was unusual, because usually, people who get it don't survive. I'm not sure if it's true, but this is, again, my recollection of those anecdotes. And then I met him in this country several times. Maybe--the last time, maybe five years ago. I met him at scientific meetings. He was very, 85:00very sharp until his passing, and he was in his nineties. And he remembered me. I mean, he had a remarkable memory. And I think the last time I saw him was at WHO in Geneva. He came to a committee with his son, because he was old enough and he said, I need somebody to help me to travel, and now that my son is retired, he is now accompanying me. And he presented his results. He worked in Philadelphia in the latest part of his life. He was working on plant expression systems. So he tried to promote polio vaccine made in plants, and he came to 86:00Geneva to present it and to get some interest and maybe to support this development. I don't think that anything came out of this, but that was the last time I saw him. And it was amazing, in his nineties, he's still interested in doing this. He was a really very, very dedicated and very result-oriented scientist. That's why he and my dad were very good friends.
TORGHELE: So they were connected, as well?
CHUMAKOV: Yeah, absolutely. That's how I know most of these famous people. If itwasn't for my parents, I guess I wouldn't know them, and they wouldn't know me.
TORGHELE: How did the language barrier work? I know that Sabin spoke someRussian, right?
CHUMAKOV: I never heard it. He said that he did, but I never heard him speaking87:00Russian. Because I think he left when he was five years old. Maybe he remembered a few words. My father didn't speak good English, but he could understand a little, and he often used the help of interpreters, but mostly my mom, because my mom spoke five languages fluently so she could translate it easily, so there was no language barrier with her. Of course, she translated for my father often when they were both of them talking to somebody.
TORGHELE: And he used a hearing aid, you said?
CHUMAKOV: Yeah, right. He could hear if somebody is speaking articulately so hecould understand. Sometimes he would ask to repeat and so on. But yes, he could 88:00communicate with his hearing aid.
TORGHELE: Now, we haven't talked about Jonas Salk very much.
CHUMAKOV: I remember him. Again, I saw him several times back in those earlydays, as well as during the last years of my father's life. Every time he would be in Moscow for whatever reason, he would come to visit my dad. And the last time I remember, I think it may have been the late 1980s, maybe '87, '88 already, after my mom passed away. He came with his wife, and my father asked us to organize a kind of dinner for them, and so we did it kind of as a memory of 89:00what was going on before, when my mom was alive. So that's my recollection.
Actually, I saw him at a very interesting gathering in Washington in '91, maybe.I think it may have been the fall of '91. That probably was the last time when Salk and Sabin were in the same room sitting next to each other. Because, based on this development that the FDA--this test that we have developed, the FDA had a workshop in Bethesda. And we invited both Salk and Sabin, and both came. And it was remarkable. So everybody knows that there was kind of not a very good relationship between them. But they were very civil. They were sitting next to 90:00each other talking, and I wish there was a photograph taken of them together. It was '91, meaning that Albert Sabin passed away two years later, and Jonas I think died also at the end of the 1990s.
TORGHELE: It would have been interesting to have a recording of that conversation.
CHUMAKOV: Yeah, I don't know if anybody recorded it. There is a proceeding ofthis meeting. In fact, Sabin submitted two papers. He presented one oral presentation, but he submitted two papers, and he gave it to me in his handwriting and asked me to type it. He could not type on the computer or typewriter, so he gave it to me. I typed it up, and I submitted it to the organizing committee, but they decided not to publish the second paper, which 91:00was a kind of discussion of what happened at this workshop. So I still have this handwritten, unpublished work by Albert Sabin. So, I don't know, maybe it's worth maybe at least to submit it to his archive.
TORGHELE: That's a treasure.
TORGHELE: And did he do all his papers handwritten?
CHUMAKOV: Possibly, because everything I've seen--this particular one he justwrote in a very legible handwriting, very nice, and it's also interesting--I remember when he was correcting my manuscript, he would cross some words and write the new ones, and he never abbreviated words. He would carefully and slowly write the whole word, letter by letter, and if you need to change several times, the same thing. It was very, very--I think it was kind of a habit from 92:00the time when there were typists. When you have to do your handwriting, and then somebody should type it on a typewriter. So it must be legible. So I mean, you cannot expect a [typist] to read your abbreviations or interpret them. So it must be done. So that's what his style was.
TORGHELE: It sounds like he might have been a little bit of a perfectionist, too.
CHUMAKOV: Oh, yeah, he definitely was a perfectionist. There's no question about it.
TORGHELE: Did you ever work with the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices?
CHUMAKOV: No, I never was involved in this part of polio vaccine. Because it'skind of more a public health epidemiology issue, I'm more involved in the method development and issues related to vaccine development. So I'm more kind of on 93:00the research and development side, rather than on the immunization practices.
TORGHELE: Did you have any involvement with the Global Polio Laboratory Networkat all?
CHUMAKOV: Again, I'm not involved in terms of my lab being a part of it, butsince I'm involved in method development, we interact a lot on validation of some methods and some of the things that we develop--try to develop--in my lab, for instance, related to environmental surveillance. Trying to use cutting-edge metagenomic molecular methods, deep sequencing for screening for the presence of poliovirus and other viruses. So these things directly dovetail into what this laboratory network does. Of course, we also do some development of methods for 94:00evaluation of new vaccines, because, for instance, right now there is a big push for development of new generation of polio vaccines, both live and inactivated. Because we will need the vaccines for even after polio is eradicated. So right now there is lot of efforts going to development and validation and harmonization of inactivated vaccines that would be easier to produce and that would not require very strict containment measures. Because obviously, after eradication, this becomes a big issue. Making vaccine from highly virulent viruses is just dangerous. So that's why there are some ideas how to do it based on nonpathogenic strains or some even without virus at all. And there is also a 95:00big push on development of new OPV that would be more genetically stable and would not trigger this vaccine-associated adverse reactions and vaccine-derived polioviruses. So we are involved in this by developing methods to assess all these vaccines. IPV quality and genetic stability of OPV. So that's why I'm sort of tangentially involved in polio eradication efforts by helping this product development part.
TORGHELE: Have you worked with many people from the CDC in your polio work?96:00
CHUMAKOV: Yeah, obviously, yeah. We worked a lot and met a lot with Olen Kew,who was and still is a very good friend. He is now retired, but we occasionally meet at some advisory committees. [Dr.] Mark Pallansch, [Dr.] Steve Oberste, [Dr.] Cara Burns--a lot of people who are in polio. Unfortunately, we're becoming a smaller and smaller family. I mean, you can actually invite all polio virologists in the world, and they all fit in a small room, unfortunately. But then it's also a very nice feeling when you know everybody, and everybody knows you and it's a kind of old friendships and professional relationships, so definitely I enjoy coming to CDC. And in terms of polio eradication efforts, it's definitely the capital of this whole process. 97:00
TORGHELE: So the fact that your polio club is getting smaller is a mark of yoursuccess, as well.
CHUMAKOV: Right, yeah, it is. It is a mark of success, even though I havesome--I would rather have this research activity continue, because you never know what happens, and I think we should not be cavalier about our success. I mean, the worst thing that can happen is that we succeed next year, and everybody would be ecstatic and say, Oh, let's go home, forget about it. I think it would be the worst mistake, because I think that polio is here to stay, not in terms that there will be polio cases, but we should be always very alert to the possibility of its return, because you never know. This virus gave us so many surprises in the past, so there is no reason to think that it will give up 98:00and go away quietly.
It's clear now that immunization must continue indefinitely. It means thateverybody should be immunized. It means that somebody's got to make vaccine, and vaccine must be cheaper, easier to deliver. There is a lot of room for improvement here. And I think that with this progress of eradication, the urgency of this fades away, and it troubles me. I think there must be a conscious effort to maintain this activity and maintain expertise in this field and maintain research and trying to adapt newest discoveries to this important objective. But we will see how it goes.
I think that it well may be that it will be forgotten soon. But I am troubled99:00that if it comes back, it will be a disaster. Because, I mean, if we stop immunization and if the virus somehow gets back into circulation, it would be a disaster. It will be like nothing else you can imagine. Because if polio strikes a population that is completely naïve, the mortality rate can be 25%. So in human history, it's happened very few times when the isolated communities were stricken by poliovirus, and then it was--the severity of these outbreaks is just outstanding. While normally polio is a relatively benign disease, it paralyzes maybe one in a thousand of people who are infected. Each case can be very severe. People can die and get paralyzed for life, but in terms of population, 100:00it's essentially--the wild poliovirus is a vaccine because it immunizes 99.9%of the population, and only one is getting the disease. So it's not a bad vaccine. So that's why it never happened.
In most cases, it was a sporadic disease. Now that we conquered it practically,and in some countries stopped immunization, the population becomes susceptible, which never happened in the human history. It's a completely different epidemiological situation. And if virus gets into this naïve population, the consequences would be very, very severe. So I think that we should always remember this and not really be cavalier about stopping immunization. And 101:00personally, I don't think it can ever happen, and it should never happen. I mean, we should do all our best to continue immunizations. But, you know, very soon we won't have any polio virologists, unfortunately.
TORGHELE: Oh, I hope that never comes to pass.
CHUMAKOV: Well, looking at the age of polio experts, I can easily believe this.
TORGHELE: Well, you all will just have to stay around. This has been a pleasuretalking to you and hearing all your recollections. It's amazing. We are learning so many things from you that we didn't know before. So I want to thank you for your time and for the information you gave to this project.
CHUMAKOV: Yeah, Karen, thank you so much for inviting me to do this. It was mypleasure, too, to go back in time and travel with my memories through those good 102:00old days and remember my parents and all things that actually constitute this glorious past. I hope that this will be interesting your viewers. And I'm looking forward to looking at it myself. I hope I didn't make too many blunders in describing the events.
TORGHELE: I think it'll be a pleasure for everyone to see. Thank you so much.
CHUMAKOV: Thank you very much.