Robert Austrian

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Robert Austrian (Baltimore, 12 April 1916 - Philadelphia, 25 March 2007) was an America infectious diseases physician and, along with Maxwell Finland, one of the 2 most important researchers into the biology of Streptococcus pneumoniae in the 20th century.

Austrian received his MD from Johns Hopkins University and did his fellowships in Infectious Diseases at Johns Hopkins and New York University. He went on to found the Infectious Diseases division and fellowship program at the University of Pennsylvania and was chairman of the department of research medicine there from 1962-1986.

Austrian’s awards include the Maxwell Finland plenary lecture at the Infectious Diseases Society of America annual session in 1974. entitled “Random gleanings from a life with the pneumococcus” and the 1978 Albert Lasker Medical Research Award. His Lasker award was for the development and clear demonstration of the efficacy of a purified vaccine of capsular polysaccharides in the prevention of pneumococcal disease. Prior to the Austrian polysaccharide vaccine scientists had prepared simpler whole bacteria and capsular polysaccharide vaccines but they were not accepted as standard of care by the medical community. Several medical authorities touted this era as “the end of infectious diseases” due to the remarkable mortality benefits derived from new antimicrobials and anti-parasitics and vaccine research was not thought to be worthwhile.

When antibiotics came into use for the cure of...
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