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ISV History

History of the Society 

- By Ray Spier


The Society may be said to have begun at the meeting between Ray Spier and Peter Nara when the former suggested to the latter that a society focussing on issues of vaccines and vaccination should be formed with Peter Nara as its first leader or President. This occurred during a conference on Modern Approaches to New Vaccines that was held at Cold Spring Harbor in September, 1992. Fred Brown who chaired one of the sessions at the conference allowed us to address the conferees to assess the strength of the demand for such a Society. We were rewarded with a clear indication that the participants would welcome the development of such a Society; so we set to work. It was a busy time. Pete did most of the work in approaching numerous companies and agencies for funding while Ray focused on getting the news of the existence of the society round to build up a membership. An article was published in Vaccine (12:1052 in August 1994) and we established a secretariat with the help of Jack Acuff. The idea was that the secretariat would handle the membership, the fees and would seek grants while the society committee would deal with those aspects of the society that progressed the objectives of the society. During these developments, Pete contacted Cambridge Healthtech Institute (CHI) at Waltham MA. The President of that Institute, Phillips Kuhl was most enthusiastic about the possibilities that would ensue were the Society and the Institute to join forces and set up and run a vaccine conference. The Institute was already well down the line of such a venture and the additional input of the Society (membership list and suggestions for speakers) would be welcomed.

The Inaugural Session

The meeting titled “Vaccine ’94 – New Technologies and Applications” was held at the Radisson Hotel, Alexandria, Washington DC between 21-23 March, 1994. On the first day of that event, Pete invited those participants of the conference who were interested in establishing an International Society for Vaccines to meet after the end of the formal sessions for an inaugural meeting of the Society. Those who attended this session agreed to be Founding Members of the Society. They were provided with copies of a Draft Constitution and, having changed one word, invited to accept its provisions, which were duly accepted. Jonas Salk then proposed that Peter Nara be the Founding Chairman, Ray Spier the Founding Secretary and Raj Gupta the Founding Treasurer. These proposals were seconded by James Cowell and were carried by acclamation. The Founding Members also accepted the suggestions of the executive that the following individuals form a committee to work with the executive on the development of the Society and its activities. They were: Don Burke, Jerry McGee, Kenneth Bart, Jonas Salk, Fred Brown, Andre Meheus, Ron Ellis, Abt Osterhaus, Rino Rappuoli and Paul Gibbs. Membership fees were set at $50 for a full member.

The Las Vegas Meeting

Following close on the heels of the Washington Conference, Pete and Jack set up a new conference of the Society that was to be held in Las Vegas in association with a meeting of the American Society for Microbiology. At that time we were in (fruitless, as it turned out) discussion with the ASM (represented by Gail Cassel, its, then, President) for some sort of associate status as opposed to becoming a division of the ASM. The meeting was held in that end of the Riviera Hotel that was not a casino on the 22-23rd May, 1994. (A summary of that meeting may be found at Vaccine 12:1358-1359)

The First Interphase

From the May of 1994 to the September of 1997, the society did not hold any additional meetings. It had been decided after a conference call of all the members of the executive and the committee with Jack Acuff not to pursue the instigation of further meetings, as there were many such already, but to develop an advanced communications system so that vaccine workers in any country could see the state of play in vaccine R&D at an (updated) glance of abstracts that were presented for conferences and journal articles. For this a news letter and the internet would be the carriers of the information. Biotechnet was to be the gateway to the net. Additionally, it was becoming clear that we were not making much progress and generating funds from outside the membership and that the Jack Acuff office was costing more than we could afford. Peter Nara suggested that we reorganise with a different organisation and to this end he introduced Bob LaGasse into the organisation. Discussions were held in early 1996 that culminated in the society signing an agreement for the future Executive Management of the society. Bob and his company, Executives Consultants Incorporated, sought to provide the society with corporate status and was active in generating a news letter. He was optimistic and believed that the membership could be increased to a level that would eventually make worthwhile the up front investment of his time and resource in the society to get it to go. One product of his activity was a meeting of the society. In the Autumn of 1997 the Society organised a meeting at the Xerox Centre, Leesburg, Virginia (8-11 September) that was Guest Edited by Fred Brown and Peter Nara and published in the journal Vaccine as ‘Special Issue: Proceedings of the International Society for Vaccines Symposium on Vaccinology’ (16(19):1777-1897, 1998). A meeting of the committee members who attended this meeting agreed to continue to pursue a policy of collecting and publicising of abstracts as well as the establishment of searchable data bases would be the core activity rather than the mounting of meetings. For this more money than that provided by the membership or the conference organisers was needed.

Enter the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases

LaGasse was confident that this could be done. But while we were seeking funds the funds to support an office that could do the research and preparation of the abstracts, extend the membership and collect the subscriptions another organisation had decided to go into vaccine based conferences. This was The National Foundation for Infectious Diseases (NFID). By this time the Cold Spring Harbor annual conferences had come to an end and there was a gap to be filled with a vaccine R&D conference. The first of such meetings was held in Washington between the 29th May to the 2nd June, 1998. At the onset the ISV became one of the participating sponsors of this meeting and Peter Nara retains a position of a Co-Chairman of the Meeting and Member of the Conference Organising Committee as well as the Scientific Program Committee. During the subsequent four meetings of the Vaccine Research conferences the ISV was given every facility to organise committee meetings, present publicity material and at the (4th) meeting (April 23-25th, 2001 Crystal City, Arlington), the ISV (RES plus an educational grant from MSD via Maurice Hilleman) organised a Symposium and Luncheon and heard a lecture by Gary Nabel on Perspectives on an AIDS Vaccine.

The next reformation

On the organisational side, it was clear that the LaGasse experiment was not working. Money was not forthcoming in 1999 Bob handed over to Ray Spier his remaining $1000 so the latter might continue the Treasurer/Secretary job for the society. At this time Greg Poland took over the Presidency, a new committee was organized, a membership data base was set up and a letter requesting the annual subscription was sent out. It was also decided at the 4th meeting of the NFID that a specific ISV meeting should be set up at Oxford, UK for the Summer of 2002. Indeed arrangements for such a meeting were in an advanced stage when the stunning events of the 9th September 2001 happened which cancelled all bets as the information that was given was that in the USA and elsewhere unless travel was absolutely necessary it should be foregone. The arrangements were put on ice. It was decided to focus activities on the formation of this web site. Many people had the idea of a society for individuals dealing with vaccines and vaccination before this meeting. In particular, Rajesh Gupta in the late 1980s had sent Ray Spier (as the Founder, in 1982, and Editor of the journal Vaccine) a letter urging him to begin such a society. As Ray in collaboration with colleagues had started the European Society for Animal Cell Technology in 1976 (details in the Encyclopedia of Cell Technology, Wiley, 2000, pp 868 et seq) and this society had been successfully established by the early 1990s, it seemed timely to accept a new challenge.

Another interregnum

It was hoped that the wide ranging contacts that Greg Poland had built up could be brought to bear on the revivification of the society. Indeed Greg opened up conversations with the NFID again and the head of that group, Len Novick, seemed to welcome this opportunity to tie into his group a wide range of people who were engaged in vaccines and vaccination at the highest levels. Papers went to and from his organisation. It seemed to this author that the sticking point in these discussions was the need for the society to obtain some monies derived from joint activities that would enable the committee of the society to hold meetings and to engage in the relatively minor expenses of setting up a web site and becoming a fully-fledged society in American Law and hence registered with the Internal Revenue Service. After several years of discussions, it was clear that there was not a way forward with the NFID. An alternative organisation was approached. The Sabin Vaccine Institute was set up from a bequest of Albert Sabin on his demise in 1993. This fund enabled the senior members of this organisation to hold dinners for select manufacturers and obtain funds to run the “Sabin Medal” awards (plus dinner) in conjunction with the annual Vaccine R&D meeting of the NFID. Its guiding hand during the first 14 years was H. R. Shepherd (Shep to his friends). Latterly, under the guidance of Peter Hotez it has acquired funds (over $1 million) to pursue research and clinical trials of vaccines against helminth diseases that strike many in the developing world, rendering them less able to work and earn – the poverty diseases. While attending meetings of the NFID, RES was encouraged by Shep to become more involved in the Sabin Vaccine Institute with a view to finding mutually beneficial activities in conjunction with the ISV. Meetings were held at the Sabin Foundation’s headquarters with Greg and RES and representatives of the Foundation. Finally, after conversations spanning the years 2003-6 it became clear that it would not be possible to base the Society in the Sabin Foundation. During this period Elsevier had developed a relationship with the Japanese Society for Vaccinology such that members of that society, as one of the benefits of joining the society, would be provided with access to the complete electronic version of the journal vaccine for as long as they continued to pay their membership fee and the society would forward to Elsevier $40 as an access fee for the journal. RES requested a similar arrangement for the ISV and this was granted.

New seeds are planted

In the March of 2007, RES met up with senior publishing/editing representatives of Elsevier in Amsterdam (Paul Taylor and Floris de Hon). As RES had founded the journal Vaccine 25 years ago, he suggested to Paul and Floris that we should have a celebratory event as a commemoration. They agreed. They also thought that there was enough time to run the event as a Vaccine Congress in Amsterdam before the end of the year. It was also agreed that for future such annual congresses the members of the ISV would pay $100 less for their conference fee – in effect, getting their subscription back completely were they to attend the Congress. It was at the April 2007 meeting of the NFID (April 30 - May 2) in Baltimore that Shan Lu asked RES what was happening with the ISV? In answer, RES spoke of the failed efforts to provide a professional animateur and to build on to existing societies. He also gave his own view that any new developments should be based on the members of the society and that the leaders would do the work that was needed to both establish the society officially and to provide the drive and dynamism to establish and follow the goals of the society. Shan immediately offered to put in his own time to help get the society going again – he also proffered dollar bills to the value of the subscription there and then. A partnership was born. Shan was excited by this prospect. There was little time to prepare the congress and both RES and SL were designated joint Congress Chairs. A scientific committee had to be assembled for the congress and a Standing Committee for the ISV confirmed under the Standing President, Greg Poland. The First Global Vaccine Congress being the 25 anniversary of the founding of the journal Vaccine by RES was held in Amsterdam between December 9-11, 2007 was a success. Over 300 attendees enjoyed a wide variety of papers presented at depth. There was not any activity that related specifically to the ISV except in that Ray and Shan set out what it would be necessary to do to create the statutory elements that would be required.

Returning to the task

At the 2008 meeting of the NFID in Baltimore (May 5-7), a committee meeting of the ISV was held in the lounge of the Conference Hotel with Greg Poland, Ray Spier, Shan Lu and Peter Nara. Greg expressed reservations as to the need for a Society but would go along with the new efforts of Shan and Ray to get it going. The letter to the prospective members should focus on the invitation to the upcoming Second Global Vaccine Congress in Boston (Dec, 2008) and have the invitation to membership of the ISV as second fiddle. As Ray was going to attend a Cambridge Healthtech Institution Vaccine meeting in Boston in August of 2008 (12-15), he arranged to meet up with Shan to set up the elements necessary for the firm establishment of a fully functioning legal society in the USA. Our first point of call was the Bank of America in Worcester, MA, the town hosting the University of Massachusetts Medical School. Speaking with the bank manager we learned that we had to obtain an IEN (an Individual Employer’s Number) that was done by following the instructions on the appropriate web site after which we could approach the bank to open an account for the Society. Our second interview was with Shan’s accountant who made the suggestion that for taxation purposes we needed two accounts, one for the membership fees and a second for grants and donations that could be considered tax-deductible expenses of corporations. Shan quickly fixed the IEN and then on providing the Bank Manager with a copy of our constitution he opened the ISV account. He then prevailed upon the talents of his in-house staff to set up the ISV web site ( which crucially had provision for membership applications and the payment of the $100 annual membership fee. Meanwhile Ray had been negotiating with the Elsevier group that was managing the practical matters needed to get the Second Global Vaccine Congress into being. Nigel Clear led this team. In these discussions it was agreed that as a result of the involvement of the ISV in setting the scientific side of the Congress the society would receive 20% of the net financial surplus of the second and subsequent Global Vaccine Congresses run in this mode.

The Second Global Vaccine Congress

The standing committee of the society also agreed to have a board meeting at this congress and there would be time set aside during the congress to have a General Meeting to re-establish the society in its new mode. During the board meeting Greg expressed his will to step down from the Standing Presidency and, after thanking Greg for the work he had done, Ray agreed to serve in his place. At the General Meeting which some 30 people attended, Greg formally stepped down and was succeeded by Ray who thanked Greg for his work and went on to present the constitution of the society to the people who were attending and it was agreed that this constitution would be the constitution for the Society. There were some additional expressions of interest in joining the committee and Clarissa Palantnik de Sousa was adopted as was John Shiver. (See Appendix I for a report of the Congress and the General Meeting of the Society held in conjunction with the Congress). In the post-congress period, Shan reported that Adolfo Garcia-Sastre would be prepared to join the committee as its Standing Secretary which was agreed by the executive commitee.

Baltimore; April 27th, 2009

This meeting of the board was held in conjunction with the next (2009 April 27-29) NFID meeting in Baltimore. The attendees were RES, SL, AG-S, JS, CPdS and another regular ISV member who is interested in helping on web work). The matters discussed were the unique characteristics of the ISV and its purpose (see the constitution while recognising that this society was set up by individuals in employment but not representative of any employing body). Shan Lu spoke of the establishment of bank accounts and the finances, and noted that the society should become a not-for-profit charity. This required some dealings with the IRS that would be undertaken, and for that purpose, an accounting firm was retained. We also covered the development of the web site and the ways by which we would attract new members, in particular by the production of a brochure to hand-out and to circulate the potential membership with an invitation letter. The matter of the up coming Third Global Vaccine Congress was considered preferred location Singapore with subsequent congresses in Vienna, Seattle and somewhere in Japan, other matters (see the minutes of this meeting).

The Third Global Vaccine Congress

Meanwhile the website was developing apace, and the program for the Third Global Vaccine Congress was being assembled mainly by Shan with support from Ray. At this time Shan was also getting to grips with the 40 page document that was needed by the US IRS to supplicate for charitable status. For this the constitution would need to change to remove references to corporate status and any special provisions for such entities. We also needed to adopt a Conflict of Interest statement as well as a declaration that nobody on the committee was receiving funds from the Society. Shan and Ray made the necessary changes and prepared a new constitution for adoption by the membership at the upcoming General Meeting. A board meeting of the Standing Committee was convened and the general way ahead for the society discussed. (See meeting minutes for that meeting) The Standing Officers of the Society also set up and ran a procedure for the election of the Committee (sometimes referred to as board) of the Society. Votes were collected via email and at the Society General Meeting held in concert with the Third Global Vaccine Congress in Oct, 2009 in Singapore. The officers were elected unopposed. There were 7 other candidates for 6 positions for the members of the rest of the committee. The successful elected were: Anne DeGroot, Dennis Klinman, Peter Nara, John Oxford, Clarisa Palatnik de Sousa, and John Shiver. The changes to the constitution were accepted nem con. Other matters were discussed with a notice by the Chairman that issues related to the professionalisation of the Vaccinologist would be raised in future such meetings.