Born in Japan, Dr. Michiaki Takahashi earned his medical degree from Osaka University. In 1959, he joined the Research Institute for Microbial Diseases. There, he led a research laboratory that worked on developing vaccines for polio, rubella, and measles. In 1963, he accepted a research fellowship at Baylor College. While in Houston, Takahashi’s son developed severe symptoms of chickenpox.
His innovative work resulted in the development of a vaccine against Varicella, the virus that causes chickenpox. The vaccine was tested on immunosuppressed patients and proved to be extremely effective. After the vaccine became available, Dr. Takahashi was appointed the director of the Microbial Disease study group at Osaka University, a position he held until his retirement.
After studying viruses and bacteria in his native Japan, Dr. Takahashi won a research fellowship at Baylor College in the United States. Within five years, he developed the first vaccine for chickenpox. After several trials and refinements, the vaccine was ready for clinical trials. It was first rolled out in Japan in 1986. Since then, it has been used in more than 80 countries.
On Feb. 17, 2018, Google celebrated Dr. Michiaki Takahashi’s 94th birthday by honoring the first chickenpox vaccine. Google’s homepage features artwork depicting Takahashi developing the vaccine. The illustration was created by Tokyo-based guest artist Tatsuro Kiuchi. Takahashi had a family member who had chickenpox, so he had a personal connection to the disease.