Lunch and learn on Tuesday, February 25 at the Chemical Heritage Foundation: A Scientific Bubble: Cancer Viruses and the Acceleration of Biomedical Research by Robin Wolfe Scheffler, recipient of a research internship sponsored by the Yale Club of Philadelphia.
From noon until 1:00PM. Bring your own lunch.
The CHF is located at 315 Chestnut St. in Center City.
The boom of cancer virus research provides an occasion to reflect on the meaning of bubbles and the uses of crisis in the history of science. Instead of viewing this boom through the prism of its failure, as many scientific commentators have done, Robin approaches this as a quest which profoundly shaped the politics of biological and biomedical research after World War II.
From the late 1950s until the early 1980s, few areas of research held more promise and generated more excitement than the search for a human cancer vaccine. Inspired by the success of vaccination against polio, the National Cancer Institute launched an ambitious search for viruses associated with human cancer, seeking to apply the methods of Cold War defense management to biomedical research. The scale and scope of this program exceeded that of the later Human Genome Project.
Although the Program ultimately failed to develop a cancer vaccine, it developed an infrastructure that played a formative role in the expansion of molecular biology, the rise of biotechnology, and mobilization against HIV/AIDS. Politically, the memory of this Program continues today to shape debates over the appropriate level of Federal involvement in biomedical research.
Let us know here if you are coming to reserve a seat for you.
Robin Wolfe Scheffler is a doctoral candidate at Yale’s Program of History of Science and Medicine. His research interests include the history of molecular biology, biotechnology, political economy, environmental health, and the politics of memory. He is currently completing his dissertation – “Cancer Viruses and the Construction of Biomedicine in the United States from 1900-1980”, after teaching last semester “The Long War against Cancer and the History of Biomedicine.”