1980s – Researchers at the University of Rochester try to experiment on HPV but are stymied by a dearth of the virus itself.
1986 –John Kreider finds a way to mass-produce HPV: He collects foreskins from infant circumcisions, infects them with HPV, and grafts them onto mice whose compromised immune systems cannot reject the graft or fight the virus.
1990 –Evidence that HPV causes of cervical cancer mounts, and the race to develop an HPV vaccine is on.
1990 –Researchers at the University of Rochester combine antibodies from infected rabbits with the live virus; the proof-of-concept vaccine successfully prevents foreskin-grafted mice from contracting HPV on their borrowed private parts.
1990-92 – Robert Rose and other Rochester researchers build a protein coat that mimics the shape of an HPV envelope without any viral DNA inside. Built by a harmless baculovirus that grows only on insect cells,the viruslike particles prevent future HPV infection but don’t carry any risk of disease.
1994 – Trials using killed strains of rabbit papillomavirus are close to 100 percent effective in preventing future infections in rabbits. Unfortunately, there’s arisk that some viral DNA could still cause disease, so researchers turn to the viruslike particles for a safer vaccine.
1998 – Alan Storey finds a genetic mutation that increases the risk of cervical cancer and is rare among Jewish women. So there was something significant about Jewish immunity after all—it just wasn’t smegma.
2002 –Studies show that circumcised men have 60% less chance of contracting HPV,which translates into a slight reduction in cervical-cancer risk for their partners. This may explain why some circumcision studies from the '50s showed a small reduction in cervical cancer among circumcised non-Jewish populations.
2005 –Merck and GlaxoSmithKline agree with the National Cancer Institute, Georgetown University,the University of Rochester, and the University of Queensland to cooperate on two different HPV vaccines.
2005-2006 –Merck and GSK report that the two HPV vaccines made from viruslike particles are 100 percent effective against the targeted HPV strains.
2006 – Merck’s HPV vaccine, Gardasil, is approved for use in the U.S., and physicians recommend vaccinating all young girls before they become sexually active. A second HPV vaccine, Cervarix, which is made by GSK and targets some different HPV strains, is still in review by the FDA.