T Jacob John got his MBBS degree (1958) from Trivandrum Medical College and joined Christian Medical College (CMC), Vellore from where he obtained Diploma (1961) in Child Health. He worked in United Kingdom for two years and after obtaining MRCP(E) (1964) he got Fellowship in Pediatric Infectious Diseases at the University of Colorado, Denver, USA. Simultaneously he completed MSc (Microbiology) (1966). After returning to Vellore he obtained PhD in Virology (1976). On sabbatical leave he worked as Assistant Professor in Pediatric Infectious Diseases at the University of Arizona, (1974-76), USA. He retired (1995) from CMC as Professor and Head of the Departments of Clinical Virology and Microbiology and remained in CMC for 5 more years as Emeritus Medical Scientist of ICMR. He received DSc (hc) from Tamil Nadu Medical University (2005).
Academic and Research Achievements: Jacob John taught undergraduate and postgraduate students in CMC. He established India's first diagnostic virology laboratory and conducted pioneering research on infectious diseases, clinical virology, vaccinology and epidemiology. He detected high risk of post-transfusion hepatitis B (HB) in 1972 and established donor screening for recipient-safety. He documented world's first 'vaccine-failure' polio cases despite 3 doses of live vaccine, and showed several ways to improve vaccine efficacy, including 'pulse vaccination'. His model of polio control in Vellore and North Arcot district became the forerunner of global polio eradication. He showed superior efficacy of Salk polio vaccine during 1970s and 80s. He established a retrovirus laboratory and field unit and, in 1986, detected HIV infection among sex workers, first in India. He guided opening of HIV sentinel surveillance in all states by ICMR Task Force and instituting donor blood screening for HIV. He has published over 480 scientific papers and guided several MD and PhD students.
Other Contributions: A Centre of Excellence in Virology (ICMR, 1979-94) and National Reference Centre for HIV (Government of India, 1986-95) functioned under the leadership of John. He was President, Indian Academy of Pediatrics (1999) and Indian Association of Medical Microbiologists (1994). John served the International Advisory Board of Lancet for 10 years. Currently he chairs India Expert Advisory Group on Polio Eradication (WHO) and Task Force on Biology of Infectious Agents (DBT); co-chairs National Technical Advisory Group on Immunization (GoI); and serves on Global Advisory Committees on Polio Eradication and Vaccine Safety (WHO), and on South-East Asia Regional Immunization Technical Advisory Group (WHO).
Awards and Honours: Jacob John is the recipient of TS Tirumurthy Lecture (2003) of INSA; BC Roy Award for Eminent Medical Man of the year 1990; and BR Ambedkar Centenary Award (2002). He is a Fellow of Indian Academy of Science, Bangalore; Indian National Academy of Medical Science; Indian Academy of Pediatrics; Indian Virological Society; Royal College of Physicians; and Royal College of Pediatrics and Child Health.