Charles Mérieux, who liked
to say that there is no boundary between the two branches
of medicine, industrialised modern virology in veterinary
medicine. By culturing cells in-vitro, he enabled the large-scale
production of a vaccine for foot-and-mouth disease. He then
applied this approach to the development of human vaccines
against polio and measles.
In the 1970s he developed the
first vaccine against meningococcal meningitis, which found
an unexpected application in Brazil when the entire population
was immunized in 1975. That campaign was a precursor to the
National Immunization Days which were introduced, again by
Brazil, for polio, paving the way for eradication of the disease.
A man of boundless energy, in
1967 Charles Mérieux founded the Marcel Mérieux
Foundation, whose Pensières Centre in Annecy has received
thousands of scientists. In 1955 he co-founded The International
Association for Biological Standardization, and in 1974 organized
the first seminar on immunization in Africa before creating
Bioforce, a school to train logisticians in a multitude of
tasks to be performed in the context of developing countries,
and more recently, in 2000, a P4 laboratory for the express
purpose of studying emerging African illnesses.
Charles Mérieux was the
recipient of the highest French decoration, the Grand' Croix
de la Légion d'Honneur, and was awarded honorary doctorates
by a dozen international universities. He was the embodiment
of industrial efficiency in the service of ethics and the
His family life was not
unmarked by hardship, but he never failed to demonstrate the
strength that sprang from hope. Resolutely turned towards
the future, he taught us to believe in the impossible because
in his case, the impossible was no match for his determination.