SILVER SPRING, Md. (NNS) -- Naval medical research celebrated its 60th birthday with cakes, speeches and reflections on accomplishments that have contributed to keeping Sailors and Marines healthy, and played an important role in international scientific and medical research advancements.
"Naval medical research has played a remarkable role in scientific history," said Navy Medicine's Historian, Jan Herman, who spoke at the celebration. "Naval medical researchers established the world's first tissue bank, back in 1949. It's been used as a model for setting up tissue banks through the world.
In 1961, Naval medicine researchers were helping with space research as a part of Stratolab V, the hydrogen balloon that flew nearly 114,000 feet into the stratosphere, establishing a world record of manned balloon flight. Unfortunately, that feat that was consigned to obscurity when Cmdr. Alan Shepard took his famous 15-minute ride into space aboard (the spacecraft) Mercury the very next day.
"Naval medical researchers were not totally out of the space business, though. Indeed, they played a key role in training the original Mercury astronauts who followed," continued Herman. "In 1966, Naval medical researchers worked with America's best-known aviator, Charles A. Lindbergh, to develop a heart-lung machine."
He also spoke of Naval medical research from the recent past, including breakthrough work in organ transplantation that may greatly increase transplant success.
While Herman noted Navy medical research's yesterdays, Chief of Naval Research Rear Adm. Jay Cohen spoke of the extraordinary work Naval researchers are engaged in today for the future.
He singled out the research being done to develop a new generation of vaccines that he call "agile." These vaccines may be quickly tailored to become just-in-time inoculations against bacteria, viruses or other pathogens that have emerged or re-engineered to make existing vaccines ineffective. One of the potential advantages of this new technology is that production from start to finish might take a matter of months, not years.
"Those researchers (who are working on the new technology) - in ten years, I expect to see them competing for the Nobel Prize in medicine," he said.
Other Naval research focuses on infectious diseases, combat casualty care, bone marrow and biological defense.
"I will tell you that the research you do today is cutting edge," said Cohen to the researchers. "Congress loves you."
The Naval Medical Research Center, previously known as the Naval Medical Research Institute, is the Navy's center for scientific research on various diseases and operational problems that affect the health, safety and readiness of Navy and Marine Corps personnel. From its modest beginning in 1942, it evolved into the Navy's largest biomedical research facility with four subordinate activities and a staff of more than 740 personnel.
For related news, visit the Navy Medicine Navy NewsStand page at www.news.navy.mil/local/mednews.