Jacinto Convit is gone

Jacinto ConvitRenowned Venezuelan doctor and scientist Jacinto Convit passed away today in Caracas. He was 100 years old. His life was full of great achievements, including the development of a vaccine for leprosy in the late 80s, after several decades of research.

Because of it, he won the 1987 Prince of Asturias Award for Technical and Scientific Research – shared with Mexican neuroscientist Pablo Rudomin – and was nominated for the Nobel Price for Medicine. He kept working until recently, including on the development of new immunotherapy against cancer. A documentary feature about his life was released earlier this year.

Almost three months ago, we lost one of the greatest Venezuelans. Today, we have lost another. Our condolences to the family, friends and associates of Mr. Convit. One can hope his legacy will inspire others to continue his labor.

18 thoughts on “Jacinto Convit is gone

  1. Sorry to rain on your parade, but there are some inaccuracies in your post. First of all, there is not, at this moment, a vaccine for leprosy. What does exist, since the forties, is the application of the BCG vaccine to prevent leprosy, since the bacteria producing it are very similar, but its effectiveness is highly variable, between 40 and 70 per cent at most. As far as I know, Convit had no role in the implantation of this vaccine. What he did do, however, is to try, back in the eighties, a combination of BCG with attenuated mycobacterium leprae, but this proved no better than BCG alone, and efforts to create an effective vaccine are still under way all around the world. Second, Nobel Prize nominations, except that for peace, are not an open process. Of course, any group or government may express their wish to have someone nominated, but this is absolutely irrelevant to the real nomination process, which is made by committees selected by the Nobel Foundation. Moreover, the identities of the nominated must remain secret for fifty years. If someone claims Convit was nominated, his name should appear in the nominations prior to 1964, but I doubt that at that time he had enough merits to be considered. If someone from the committees told Convit he had been nominated, that person would have breached their secrecy vow, and anyway nobody would know if it was true until much, much, later.
    Sadly, Convit’s real merits as physician and researcher are obscured by the exaggeration and mythification of his achievements.

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  2. In Convit’s own words: “There is no evidence in the first 5 years of follow-up of this trial that BCG plus M leprae offers substantially better protection against leprosy than does BCG alone, but the confidence interval on the relative efficacy estimate is wide.”

    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/1346818

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