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Research breakthroughs

  • We have awarded research grants from our foundation in 1938.
  • Grants help young scholars start a career in birth defects research.
  • Investments have led to important advances and 13 Nobel Prizes.
    Jonas Salk, MD, inoculates child with first polio vaccine; 1954 Linus Pauling, PhD, winner of Nobel Prize in Chemistry for work on the nature of the chemical bond; 1955 Albert Sabin, MD; Jonas Salk, MD; and March of Dimes President Basil O’Connor; 1961. Polio vaccines developed by Drs. Sabin and Salk under March of Dimes grants ended the polio epidemics in the United States. Robert Good, MD, discovered the role of the thymus gland in human immune response and was one of the first to treat birth defects with bone marrow transplants; 1962 Lab assistant assembles PKU early detection kits; 1963 L. Joseph Butterfield, MD, a pioneer in the regionalization of perinatal health care, served on the March of Dimes Committee on Perinatal Health that published Toward Improving the Outcome of Pregnancy; 1975 Victor McKusick, MD, initiated the renowned Bar Harbor Short Course in Medical Genetics and took the first steps toward mapping the human genome; 1960 T. Allen Merritt, MD, developed a pulmonary surfactant used to treat respiratory distress syndrome in newborns; 1987 David Smith, MD, and Kenneth Lyons Jones, MD Eric F. Weischaus, MD, with his colleague Edward B. Lewis, MD, winners of the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for identifying master genes that control early structural development of the body; 1995
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    Research Slide Show

    Immediately after it was founded in 1938, the March of Dimes established a system of committees to award research grants. The earliest grants in basic science, virology, and medicine stimulated research in the sciences and led to the development of the polio vaccines developed by Jonas Salk, MD and Albert Sabin, MD. With our mission change to birth defects prevention in 1958, the Foundation maintained its firm commitment to basic science but with a shift of focus to the clinical delineation of birth defects. Since then, the March of Dimes has supported research into the cellular and molecular basis of genetic diseases, developmental processes and abnormalities, and the epidemiology of premature birth to improve medical diagnosis and develop treatments for a wide range of birth defects and developmental disorders. March of Dimes research has led to improved prenatal diagnosis of sickle cell anemia, discovery of the genes for Marfan and Fragile X syndromes, and the development of pulmonary surfactant therapy to treat respiratory distress syndrome. Since 1973, the Basil O'Connor Starter Scholarship Research Awards have assisted promising young scientists at the beginnings of their careers in birth defects research. Our Prematurity Research Initiative has focused especially on genetics and gene-environment interactions relating to the causes of prematurity. The Foundation's investment in research has led to 13 scientists winning the Nobel Prize since 1954 whose original work was supported by March of Dimes research grants.

    September 20, 2010 / David Rose / March of Dimes Archives

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