Google Doodle Celebrates Dr. Michiaki Takahashi’s 94th Birthday

Today’s Doodle, illustrated by Tokyo, Japan-based guest artist Tatsuro Kiuchi, celebrates Japanese virologist Dr. Michiaki Takahashi, who developed the first vaccine against chickenpox. Takahashi’s vaccine has since been administered to millions of children around the world as an effective measure to prevent severe cases of the contagious viral disease and its transmission.

Michiaki Takahashi was born on this day in 1928 in Osaka, Japan. He earned his medical degree from Osaka University and joined the Research Institute for Microbial Disease, Osaka University in 1959. After studying measles and polio viruses, Dr Takahashi accepted a research fellowship in 1963 at Baylor College in the United States. It was during this time that his son developed a serious bout of chickenpox, leading him to turn his expertise toward combating the highly transmissible illness.

Dr.Takahashi returned to Japan in 1965 and began culturing live but weakened chickenpox viruses in animal and human tissue. After just five short years of development, it was ready for clinical trials. In 1974, Dr. Takahashi had developed the first vaccine targeting the varicella virus that causes chickenpox. It was subsequently subjected to rigorous research with immunosuppressed patients and was proven to be extremely effective. In 1986, the Research Foundation for Microbial Diseases, Osaka University began the rollout in Japan as the only varicella vaccine approved by the World Health Organization.

Dr.Takahashi’s lifesaving vaccine was soon utilized in over 80 countries. In 1994, he was appointed the director of Osaka University’s Microbial Disease Study Group—a position he held until his retirement. Thanks to his innovations, millions of cases of chickenpox are prevented each year.