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November 6, 1997

Charles C. Brinton Jr.

Charles C. Brinton Jr., a microbiology professor who spent his academic career at Pitt and devoted his work to protecting people from bacterial diseases, died Oct. 21, 1997.

Brinton, 71, died after a three-year battle with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), better known as Lou Gehrig's disease.

He was among a group of scientists who, in 1950, discovered a feature of bacterial cells called pili — long, thin protrusions from the surface of the cells. The researchers hypothesized that injecting harmless pili into the body could cause antibodies to form, preventing many bacteria-caused diseases. Brinton and some colleagues injected themselves with an experimental, pili-based vaccine to help prove its effectiveness.

In 1974, a Brinton research team tested an effective new vaccine for gonorrhea among 5,000 U.S. Army personnel stationed in South Korea, who volunteered for the study. That same year, Brinton formed Bactex, a company that developed vaccines for several diseases. He held 11 U.S. patents for human and animal vaccine products, and at the time of his death was developing a vaccine to prevent ear infections.

After earning his Ph.D. in biophysics at Pitt in 1955 and completing postdoctoral fellowships at the Pasteur Institute in Paris and at the University of Geneva, Brinton began his academic career here as a research associate in 1956. He held a variety of faculty and administrative positions in microbiology at the University. At the time of his death, Brinton was a professor of microbiology in the Faculty of Arts and Sciences biological sciences department, an adjunct professor of microbiology in the Graduate School of Public Health, and director of the public health school's Center for Molecular Vaccines.

Brinton was the Jaycees Man of the Year in Medicine in 1976, and in 1985 Science Digest selected him as one of the top 100 innovators in the United States that year.

He is survived by his wife, Sarah W. Wood, who is a researcher and instructor in the Pitt biological sciences department; by seven children, Samuel F. Brinton of Orlando, Fla., Amy F. Brinton of Winston-Salem, N.C., Benjamin C. Brinton of Somerset, Katherine C. Brinton at home, Stephen C. Wood of Portland, Ore., Paul G. Wood of Squirrel Hill and Joel A. Wood of Greenfield; and one grandson, Vincent Wood.

Memorial contributions can be made to the ALS Association, 1323 Forbes Ave., Suite 200, Pittsburgh 15219.

A memorial service at Pitt is planned for later this fall.

Filed under: Feature,Volume 30 Issue 6

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