A History of Diseases Triumphed by Innovation

May 15, 2020

History of Disease Triumphed By Innovation

The world is a scary place right now as we all watch the global COVID-19 pandemic continue to grow and impact the lives of everyone. Between the social distancing and relentless media coverage, it is easy to fall into a place of worry and sadness. While we are all doing our part to “flatten the curve” and slow the spread of the disease, we should also do our best to stay positive—even if that means thinking back on the history of diseases that we have already overcome.


Now preventable by vaccine and almost completely eradicated, polio was once a worldwide epidemic. Described by the Center for Disease Control (CDC) as a “disabling and life-threatening disease caused by the poliovirus,” polio can infect an individual’s spinal cord and often results in death or paralysis. In 1952, at its peak in the United States, the polio epidemic led to 58,000 reported cases, over 21,000 cases of paralysis and over 3,000 deaths. 

Jonas Salk eventually developed a polio vaccine at the University of Pittsburgh, which was declared “safe, effective and potent” on April 12, 1955. Salk forewent obtaining a patent for his vaccine in the interest of the public, which, according to some estimates, cost him nearly $7 billion in potential patent licensing fees. Today, a search for polio patent documents in 107 worldwide patent authority databases using the LexisNexis TotalPatent One® patent search platform results in 353 patent records ranging from alternative treatment methods to rehabilitation devices for those that have been afflicted by the disease.


Another disease that will hopefully soon be eliminated is measles, a highly contagious disease that is spread through the air when an infected person coughs or sneezes. The measles virus can even live in the air for up to two hours after an infected person is present. Symptoms of measles typically begin with a fever, which then leads to a cough, runny nose and red eyes before leading to a rash.

Fortunately, scientists were able to invent the very safe MMR vaccine that is 93% effective after a single dose, and a measles vaccination program began in 1963. Before the program, it is estimated that 3 – 4 million people got measles each year in the United States. In 2018, only 371 cases were confirmed in the country. Despite our progress given the history of disease, there is still some work to be done—a worldwide patent search using TotalPatent One® reveals 804 patent records containing inventions that could help rid the world of the disease completely.


Malaria is a serious disease caused by a parasite that is carried and spread through mosquitoes. Malaria has been on the rise the past few decades, and in 2004, malaria deaths peaked at approximately one million people. The need for a solution led to the USPTO issuing 149 malaria patents between 1993 and 2013. Today, 4,207 global malaria patent documents are accessible using TotalPatent One.

Current treatments for malaria now vary depending on which species of plasmodium infects an individual. Because of innovative treatment methods and medical intervention, the malaria mortality rate was cut by 25% from 2010 to 2016. Currently, the RTS,S vaccine, which has shown efficacy through Phase 3 clinical trials against the deadliest form of malaria, is in a pilot phase and is the first malaria vaccine shown to provide partial protection against malaria in children.

People have always been able to innovate and overcome the challenges they face. TotalPatent One provides users with access to over 1 million patent documents (such as documents that address the history of diseases) as evidence of our progress, and reminds us that there is always hope.

Learn how you can use LexisNexis TotalPatent One® patent search software for comprehensive research and analytics. Search issued patents, published patent applications, and prior art references, globally. Identify IP documentation and bring insights to your work. Or sign in now.

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