Battling the modern threat of an ancient terror


Smallpox has plagued humanity for millennia, killing more people than all the world’s wars combined. During the mid-1960s, in the midst of the Cold War, the world launched an all-out assault against this global enemy; eradicating the disease was a triumph of modern science. Nations throughout the world began disposing of their stores of smallpox virus and vaccines until the last known stocks existed in only two places—at the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta and at the Research Institute for Viral Preparations in Moscow.

“Smallpox has been eradicated. Or has it?” asked Dennis Hruby, an OSU microbiologist who worked to develop a new defense against smallpox. “No one has been vaccinated in the U.S. for almost 40 years,” said Hruby. “And most of the world’s supply of the vaccine has been destroyed. The government would like to have a drug ready to treat the disease if it were to show up.”

For 20 years, Hruby’s lab in OSU’s Department of Microbiology worked to learn how invading microbes infect cells and cause disease. In 2000, Hruby joined forces with SIGA Technologies as their chief scientific officer in a research and development partnership.

Media Image: 
Credit Text: 
Lynn Ketchum
Caption Text: 
Dennis Hruby, in his SIGA lab, tracks cells infused with a fluorescent green virus. (Photo by Lynn Ketchum.)