SK Bioscience 275x275In 1918, the Spanish flu killed more than 50 million people worldwide, half of whom died from pneumococcal infections. If a similar outbreak occurred today, Moon Nahm, M.D., and his team in the World Health Organization (WHO) Pneumococcal Serology Reference Laboratory at UAB are making sure that more people are vaccinated and shielded from the deadly infections.

Jaeyong Ahn, CEO of South Korea-based SK bioscience, says they wanted to support the contribution that Nahm and his UAB WHO Reference Lab are making in advancing pneumonia research worldwide. The company recently made a $1.5 million pledge to create the SK bioscience Endowed Chair in Pneumonia Research, which Nahm now holds.

“With the belief in the power of vaccination enhancing human life, SK bioscience recognized the important role the UAB WHO Reference Lab plays in making pneumonia vaccines more affordable. We also wanted to demonstrate our appreciation for UAB’s—especially Dr. Nahm’s—dedication and accomplishments in pneumonia research,” Ahn says.

Moon NahmMoon NahmNahm, director of the lab and a professor of pulmonary, allergy, and critical care medicine, says he is grateful for this generous gift. “I think the gift really inspires us and urges us to do more good things in the field. It encourages us as we redouble our efforts,” he says.

Nahm’s efforts focus on preventing and treating pneumonia and other pneumococcal infections, and the gift will help him implement and sustain a long-term strategic plan for the UAB WHO Reference Lab and its work to make pneumococcal vaccines more affordable worldwide. “There is a worldwide effort to control the pneumococcal infection and expand the use of pneumococcal vaccines,” Nahm says. “The pneumococcal vaccine is a really important part of the world public health.”

He and his team have trained hundreds of scientists from more than 20 countries and are working with officials in India and China to replicate the WHO Reference Lab in those countries, which exemplifies why SK group made the gift.

“The contributions of the UAB WHO Reference Lab to advance pneumonia research hold much significance for both SK bioscience and other pneumococcal vaccine investigators around the world. SK bioscience hopes to continue to promote collaborative research efforts that build on the common dream of improving human health,” says Ahn.

By Emily Henagan