February 19, 2017 | HILLEMAN: A Perilous Quest to Save the World’s Children | Germantown, MD
Germantown, Maryland sits close to where Maurice Hilleman lived with his young family while working at the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research in the late 1940s and 50s. Having come from E.R. Squibb & Sons right out of graduate school, the government institution offered the perfect hybrid environment for young Hilleman. It had resources enough to allow him to follow vaccine candidates to their full development, and it provided him the freedom to pursue basic science challenges of his choosing, as long as they were relevant to the needs of the military and its troops.
Just down the road, in Bethesda, MD, the NIH (National Institutes of Health) buzzes with the constant hum of scientific discovery. In the process of making HILLEMAN, I became aware of Dr. Sriram Subramaniam’s lab at NIH because of our desire to create 3D animations that could help relay the scientific story behind Dr. Hilleman’s many vaccines. We determined to work with XVIVO in Wethersfield, CT because they had proven to be in a class of their own when it came to scientific animation. And Dr. Subramaniam’s lab, with its team of scientific sleuths, had revealed rare insights about the structure of many immune cells and the pathogens they combat. Their work offered inspiration by allowing us to view, with amazing detail, the shape of these tiny heroes and villains.
How did they do this? — By using IA-SEM (ion-abrasion scanning electron microscopy) and other high resolution electron microscopy to reveal the 3-dimensional structure of agents involved in the immune system’s battle against infectious disease. The process is pretty cool; freeze or fix a microscopic specimen, grind away a super-thin layer by shooting an ion beam at it, then take a photograph with an electron microscope. Next step: grind away another super-thin layer and take another photo. Repeat. And keep repeating until you grind through the entire specimen. Finally, combine the many two-dimensional photos, one on top of the next, inside a computer program to reveal a 3-dimensional representation of the specimen’s structure. It’s like a 3D MRI for the super small. With Black Rock being so close to NIH, I’m honored to have Dr. Subramaniam join us for today’s screening of HILLEMAN.
Post provided by On Screen/In Person touring filmmaker, Donald Mitchell