Comprehensive Timeline

  • 1630s
    Recording of births and deaths begun in Boston.
  • 1648
    General Court of Massachusetts Bay Colony enacts maritime quarantine statute. Repealed following year.
  • 1678
    During a smallpox epidemic, Reverend Thomas Thacher of Boston published broadsheet about the care of the smallpox victim, possibly the first medical publication in the English colonies.
  • 1721
    Reverend Cotton Mather promoted small pox inoculation, which was begun by Dr. Zabdiel Boylston in Massachusetts. This was the first large scale smallpox inoculation in the English speaking world.
  • 1735
    New England experiences major diphtheria epidemic.
  • 1796
    Edward Jenner speculated that protection from the smallpox disease could be obtained through inoculation with a related virus, cowpox. He tested his theory by inoculating eight-year-old James Phipps with cowpox pustule liquid recovered from the hand of a milkmaid, Sarah Nelmes.
  • 1797
    Law passed in Massachusetts authorizing local boards of Health.
  • 1798
    Edward Jenner published his work on the development of a vaccination that would protect against smallpox.
  • 1799
    Boston Board of Health established with Paul Revere as President.
  • 1801
    Dr. Benjamin Waterhouse introduced the use of “Cowpox Vaccine” in Massachusetts and became the first doctor in Boston to obtain vaccine material.
    Benjamin Waterhouse
  • 1802
    Massachusetts became the first U.S. state to encourage the use of vaccination against smallpox. Dr. Waterhouse convinced Boston’s Board of Health to sponsor a public test of vaccination. Nineteen volunteers were successfully vaccinated.
  • 1809
    Milton, Massachusetts began giving all inhabitants free smallpox inoculation. Other communities soon followed this example.
  • 1809
    Law passed in Massachusetts requiring appointment of Public Vaccinators. (This law was repealed in 1837.)
  • 1827
    Doctors in Massachusetts required to report dangerous diseases.
  • 1846
    First Vital Statistics reported for Massachusetts.
  • 1849
    Commission appointed to report to the Legislature about a plan for sanitary survey in Massachusetts.
  • 1850
    A Report of the Sanitary Commission of Massachusetts, authored by Lemuel Shattuck, outlined many elements of modern public health infrastructure including recommendation for establishment of state and local health boards.


    Lemuel Shattuck

  • 1855
    Massachusetts became the first U.S. state to require vaccination for schoolchildren. Very soon other states and localities began to pass similar regulations. At that time, only smallpox vaccine was available.
  • 1869
    Law enacted creating a State Board of Health in Massachusetts. Dr. Henry I. Bowditch named chairman.
  • 1873
    First Annual Report of the Boston City Health Department issued.
  • 1879
    Louis Pasteur created the first live attenuated bacterial vaccine (chicken cholera).
  • 1881
    Louis Pasteur and George Miller Sternberg almost simultaneously isolated and grew the pneumococcus organism.
  • 1883
    Smallpox is made a reportable disease to the Board of Health in Massachusetts.
  • 1884
    Diphtheria is made a reportable disease to the Board of Health in Massachusetts.
    Friedrich Loeffler becomes first person to cultivate Corynebacterium diphtheriae.
  • 1885
    Louis Pasteur first used rabies vaccine in humans.
  • 1888
    Émile Roux (1853-1933) and Alexandre Yersin (1863-1943) showed that a substance produced by C. diphtheriae caused symptoms of diphtheria in animals.
  • 1888
    The Massachusetts Board of Health recommends the establishment of a State Vaccine Laboratory.
  • 1890
    Antitoxin and Serum Therapy discovered. Shibasaburo Kitasato and Emil von Behring immunized guinea pigs with heat-treated diphtheria toxin. They showed that the blood products of the guinea pigs contained a substance that prevented the harmful effects of C. diphtheriae and its toxin when the guinea pigs were re-exposed to lethal doses of the bacteria and toxin. Next, they showed that they could cure diphtheria in an animal by injecting it with the serum of an immunized animal. They called the substance antitoxin and their treatment serum therapy. They realized that they needed to immunize large animals, such as horses and sheep, to produce enough antitoxin to protect humans.
  • 1894
    Joseph L. Goodale, M.D. first made Diphtheria Antitoxin in Massachusetts.

    Joseph L. Goodale

    Joseph L. Goodale, M.D.

  • 1894
    Massachusetts Board of Health undertook production and free distribution of diphtheria antitoxin. Diphtheria antitoxin produced in horses at the stable and main building of Harvard’s Bussey Institute in Forest Hills under the ad hoc direction of Joseph L. Goodale, M.D.
  • 1895
    Establishment of the Massachusetts State Antitoxin and Vaccine Laboratory. The State Board of Health Established the laboratory at Harvard’s Bussey Institute in Jamaica Plain to make diphtheria antitoxin.

    Bussey Building. Unknown Date

    Bussey Building

  • 1895-1914
    Theobald Smith – First Director of Massachusetts State Antitoxin and Vaccine Laboratory. Concurrently, he was Professor of Comparative Pathology at Harvard Medical School. Bacteriologic Laboratory services were also begun in 1895 by Smith at the Antitoxin Laboratory

    Theobald Smith, M.D. Director Antitoxin & Vaccine Laboratory 1985-1914

    Theobald Smith, M.D.

  • 1895
    Bacteriological laboratory, later known as the Diagnostic Laboratory, established under the direction of Smith at the Bussey Institution.
  • 1896
    Cholera and Typhoid vaccine first developed.
  • 1897
    Diagnostic Laboratory service facilities transferred to State House.
  • 1897
    Paul Ehrlich developed standardized unit of measure for diphtheria antitoxin.
  • 1901
    Thirteen children in St. Louis died from contaminated diphtheria antitoxin. This incident, along with a tetanus outbreak in Camden, NJ initiated federal regulation of biological products, including the Biologics Control Act.
  • 1902
    Last Smallpox epidemic in Massachusetts.
  • July 1, 1902
    The U.S. Congress passed the Biologics Control Act, “An act to regulate the sale of viruses, serums, toxins, and analogous products.” This was the first modern federal legislation to control the quality of drugs. The Act created the Hygienic Laboratory of the U.S. Public Health Service to oversee manufacture of biological drugs. The Hygienic Laboratory eventually became the National Institute of Health in 1930.
  • 1903
    Vaccine lymph production and distribution from the Antitoxin and Vaccine Laboratory authorized by the Massachusetts State Legislature.
  • 1904
    New two story brick stable and laboratory building completed for the Antitoxin and Vaccine Laboratory. Manufacturing of smallpox vaccine (bovine) and silver nitrate begun in new building

    Biologics Building -  AV Laboratory and Stables. Unknown Date.

    Biologics Building – AV Laboratory and Stables.

  • February 20, 1905
    The U.S. Supreme Court addressed mandated vaccination in the case of Jacobson v. Massachusetts. The case dealt with a resident of the city of Cambridge, MA who refused to be vaccinated for smallpox, believing the law violated his right to care for his own body in the way he thought best. The Court rejected Jacobson’s challenge. The ruling upheld the constitutionality of mandatory smallpox vaccination programs and served as the foundation for state actions to limit individual liberties in order to protect the public’s health.
  • 1905
    Clemens Pirquet and Bela Schick described serum sickness in children receiving large quantities of horse derived antitoxin.
  • 1906
    School Health Law passed by Massachusetts legislature, first in the nation.
  • 1907
    Report of Polio in Massachusetts issued.
  • 1907
    Emil von Behring published a paper showing that a mixture of diphtheria toxin and antitoxin, carefully balanced, produced safe and lasing immunity to diphtheria.
  • 1910
    Silver nitrate furnished to newborns in Massachusetts for the prevention of blindness.
  • 1912
    Development and manufacture of Typhoid Vaccine begun at Antitoxin and Vaccine Laboratory.
  • 1913
    The Schick Test is developed. Bela Schick developed a test to determine if a person had some immunity to diphtheria. He reasoned that the injection of a very small amount of diphtheria toxin under the skin would produce a reddening and slight swelling at the site. If such a reaction occurred, it indicated that the patient had not previously been exposed to diphtheria. A lack of reddening of the injection area indicated that the patient had previously been exposed to diphtheria and therefore had immunity to it. Having already developed immunity eliminated the need for treatment, saving precious antitoxin for those without immunity.
  • 1914
    William H. Park adjusted the ratio in the diphtheria toxin-antitoxin mixture. In this way he increased lasting immunity and decreased the number of negative reactions to the mixture. Parks’ formula for the mixture was used until it was replaced by toxoid immunization.
  • 1914
    The Antitoxin and Vaccine Laboratory introduced Diphtheria vaccine into general use in Massachusetts.
  • 1914
    With a reorganization of departments and services in Massachusetts, the State Department of Health supersedes State Board of Health. The Antitoxin and Vaccine Laboratory is placed in the newly named Division of Biological Laboratories. Bacteriological Diagnostic services are separated from the Laboratory services and place in the newly created Division of Communicable Diseases.
  • 1914-1920
    Milton Joseph Rosenau named Director of the Division of Biological Laboratories and the Antitoxin and Vaccine Laboratory.
  • 1915
    State Wassermann Laboratory opened under the Division of Biologic Laboratories. Free syphilis serology testing begun by William A. Hinton, M.D., chief of the Wassermann Laboratory.
  • 1915
    Development and manufacture of Schick test for diphtheria immunity begun at Antitoxin and Vaccine Laboratory begun.
  • 1917
    The Antitoxin and Vaccine Laboratory granted Federal License No. 64, authorizing manufacture and interstate sale of biological products.

    FDA License No.64 issued to the Antitoxin and Vaccine Laboratory, Department of Public Health, Commonwealth of Massachusetts dated July 27, 1923. (reissue after name change of original 1917 license.)

    FDA License No.64 issued to the Antitoxin and Vaccine Laboratory, Department of Public Health, Commonwealth of Massachusetts dated July 27, 1923. (reissue after name change of original 1917 license.)

    FDA License No.64 issued to the Massachusetts Public Health Biologic Laboratories,  dated August 20, 1996. (reissue after name change of original 1917 license.)

    FDA License No.64 issued to the Massachusetts Public Health Biologic Laboratories, dated August 20, 1996. (reissue after name change of original 1917 license.)

  • 1917
    Development and manufacture of Anti-pneumococcus serum Types I and II at Antitoxin and Vaccine Laboratory begun.
  • 1918
    First Diphtheria toxin-antitoxin for active immunization made at the Antitoxin and Vaccine Laboratories. It is produced in a newly extended wing of the Laboratories.
    People and Research Photograph. [1920s-1940s]
  • 1920-1934
    Benjamin White – Director (first full time director).
  • 1921
    Massachusetts Legislature authorizes the sale of surplus products by the Biologic Laboratories.
  • 1923
    First scheduled course, Applied Immunology, given at the Laboratory in conjunction with Harvard School of Public Health.
  • 1923
    Gaston Ramon and Alexander Thomas Glenny both independently developed diphtheria toxoid. Ramon treated diphtheria toxin with heat and formalin which inactivated the toxin molecule so that it could no longer attach to cells and cause toxicity. In humans this toxoid was still able to induce antibodies that blocked natural toxin from attaching to cells, thus preventing diphtheria in a person if exposed.
  • 1925
    Development and manufacture of Scarlet Fever antitoxin begun at Antitoxin and Vaccine Laboratory. Additionally, production of antiserums for measles, influenza bacillus, and other agents begun.
    Various Product Labels. July 12, 1923Various Product Labels. July 12, 1923
    Various Product Labels. 1923.
  • 1927
    Production of influenza bacillus anti-serum begun at Antitoxin and Vaccine Laboratory.
  • 1927
    Development and production of new serum for the treatment of meningitis begun.
  • 1931
    The state wide Pneumonia Control Study begun, lasting until 1935.
  • 1932
    Diphtheria toxoid produced at Antitoxin and Vaccine Laboratory, gradually replacing toxin-antitoxin for active immunization.
  • 1932
    Development and production of new anti-typhus serum begun.
  • 1933
    Convalescent serums of human origin obtained and distributed for treatment of poliomyelitis and scarlet fever in Massachusetts.
  • 1934-1947
    Elliot S. Robinson – Director of Antitoxin and Vaccine Laboratory.
  • 1934
    Placental extract, the precursor of immune serum globulin, prepared in collaboration with Dr. Charles F. McKhann, Harvard Medical School, and distributed for prevention and modification of measles.
  • 1936
    Development and manufacture of the Toxin for the Schick test begun at Antitoxin and Vaccine Laboratory

    Diphtheria Toxin for Schick Test Tuck - Package design and order approval by James McComb. September 20, 1957

    Diphtheria Toxin for Schick Test Tuck – Package design and order approval by James McComb. September 20, 1957.

  • 1940
    Edwin Cohn of Harvard develops plasma fractionation with the production of albumin and gamma globulin for therapeutic use.
  • 1941
    Development and manufacture of tetanus vaccine begun.
  • 1941
    Production and distribution of normal human serum albumin begun as part of war research. Blood products program within the Division of Biologic Laboratories initiated.

    Product Packages

    Various Product Packages.

  • 1942
    Production of immune serum globulin begun as war research, manufactured by the Cohn cold-ethanol process developed by Dr. Edwin Cohn at Harvard. The Antitoxin and Vaccine Laboratory served as Dr. Cohn’s pilot laboratory for this process, which later became the standard process used throughout the world for the manufacture of Albumin and all Immune Globulins.
  • 1942-1949
    Geoffrey Edsall, M.D. – Director Division of the Biologic Laboratories of the Massachusetts Department of Public Health. In 1942 Dr. Robinson entered the Army and Geoffrey Edsall, M.D. became Acting Director until 1947, and Director from 1947-1949.
  • 1944
    Immune Serum globulin made generally available.
  • 1944
    Wassermann Laboratory separated administratively from the Division of Biologic Laboratories. It is placed in the Division of Communicable Diseases.
  • 1945
    Massachusetts Blood and Blood Derivative Program begun. First civilian program of its kind in the nation.
  • 1946
    Blood fractionation begun in new Biologics building as part of collaborative program with Massachusetts hospitals

    Bob Kelly in Fractionation Area B134 1950

    Bob Kelly in Fractionation Area B134. 1950.

  • 1947
    The Diagnostic Laboratory and the Wassermann Laboratory were relocated and united in the Bussey Building, from which the Diagnostic Laboratory had moved 50 years earlier.
  • 1949
    Tetanus toxoid, diphtheria toxoid, and pertussis vaccine with modern levels of purity and potency developed.
  • 1949-1967
    James McComb – Director of Antitoxin and Vaccine Laboratory.
  • 1950
    Production begun at Antitoxin and Vaccine Laboratory of Diptheria-Tetanus-Pertussis Vaccine, the first combination vaccine.
  • 1951
    All laboratory activities including the Division of Diagnostic Laboratories and Division of Biologic Laboratories are consolidated administratively into the Institute of Laboratories with Johannes Ipsen, M.D. as Superintendent.

    Johannes Ipsen Superintendent State Laboratory Institute

    Johannes Ipsen

  • 1951
    Harvard School of Public Health course Advanced Laboratory Work in Applied Immunology started in conjunction with the Biologic Laboratories.
  • 1959
    Massachusetts Health Research Institutes (MHRI) is founded.
  • 1962
    Massachusetts Biologic Laboratories pioneered and became the first state laboratory to produce and distribute Tetanus Immune Globulin made from human blood plasma.

    Eva Bevurs working with horse blood. 1961

    Eva Bevurs working with horse blood. 1961

  • 1967-1970
    Morton Madoff – Director Massachusetts Biologic Laboratories.
  • 1970
    Massachusetts Biologic Laboratories pioneered special immune globulin – Rh Immune Globulin for the prevention of Rh hemolytic disease of newborns.
  • 1970-1977
    George F. Grady – Director Massachusetts Biologic Laboratories.
  • 1972
    Massachusetts Biologic Laboratories pioneered special immune globulin – Hepatitis B Immune Globulin.
  • October 11, 1974
    Dedication ceremony for the first new building of the State Laboratory Institute.

    Drawing of Concept for New State Lab Build 1969

    Drawing of New State Laboratory Build. 1969.

  • 1975
    Dr.s Georges Kohler and Cesar Milstein develop a technique for producing monoclonal antibodies; they are awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1984. 
  • 1977
    Last naturally occurring smallpox case reported. 
  • 1977-1982
    George Wright – Director Massachusetts Biologic Laboratories.
  • 1981
    Massachusetts Biologic Laboratories pioneered special immune globulin – Varicella Zoster Immune Globulin. 
  • 1983-1996
    George R. Siber – Director Massachusetts Biologic Laboratories.
  • 1983
    US Congress passes the Orphan Drug Act.
  • 1986
    Massachusetts has the first in the nation law requiring immunizations of college students.
  • 1990
    Massachusetts Biologic Laboratories pioneered special immune globulin – Cytomegalovirus Immune Globulin (CytoGam); the first biologic product to be granted official “Orphan Drug Status” by the FDA.
  • 1994
    Massachusetts Biologic Laboratories celebrates its centennial.

    Staff Photo. 1994

    Staff Photograph. 1994.

  • 1995
    Massachusetts Biologic Laboratories is awarded a five-year grant from USAID to manage the International Children’s Vaccine Training Program.
  • 1996
    Massachusetts Biologic Laboratories pioneered special immune globulin – Respiratory Syncytial Virus Immune Globulin (RespiGam).
  • Finished Products Display

    Products Display. 1990s.

  • 1997
    The State Legislature transferred oversight of MassBiologics from the Department of Public Health to the University of Massachusetts.
  • 1998-2011
    Donna Ambrosino – Executive Director MassBiologics.
  • 1999
    MassBiologics enters into a contract to manufacture Vaccinia Immune Globulin-Intravenous for the US Department of Defense.
  • 2002
    US Congress passes the Rare Diseases Act of 2002.
  • 2003
    Work begun with the National Institutes of Health to discover protective Monoclonal Antibody against SARS.
  • 2005
    New Facility open, with aseptic filling operation to fill vials of vaccine and other therapeutics manufactured at MassBiologics. Also housed monoclonal antibody manufacturing operation. A second facility next door opened shortly after. All functions of MassBiologics moved to new buildings by 2013.

    Skanska Construction Ariel Photo 2004

    Skanska Construction Aerial Photo. 2004.

  • 2006
    MassBiologics entered into a Collaboration and License Agreement with the Serum Institute of India to develop a fully human monoclonal antibody against rabies virus for post-exposure prophylaxis treatment.
  • 2009
    MassBiologics and co-developer, Medarex, signed an exclusive worldwide license agreement with Merck, through a subsidary for a fully human monoclonal antibody combination developed to target and neutralize toxins for the treatment of C. difficile infection.
  • 2012 –
    Mark Klempner – Executive Director MassBiologics.

    Mark Klempner

    Mark Klempner

  • 2013
    MassBiologics donates over one million doses of tetanus and diphtheria vaccine to global NGO Project HOPE, helping tens of thousands of people in the Dominican Republic, Kyrgyzstan, and Tajikistan receive vaccines.
 MBL Project Hope Shipment Supply Chain

MBL Project Hope Shipment Supply Chain

  • December 2013
    MassBiologics receives orphan drug designation from the FDA for MBL-HCV1, a monoclonal antibody developed to prevent the recurrence of Hepatitis C virus (HCV) in patients receiving a liver transplant.  
  • April 2014
    MassBiologics receives a $5 million grant to fund major lab and facility renovations, as part of a nearly $6 million initiative to support life-sciences-related capital projects in Boston. The grant will be used to build and operate a first-in-Massachusetts cGMP (Current Good Manufacturing Practice) Vector Manufacturing Center to respond to a new era in the use of viral vectors to prevent and treat human diseases. 

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