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Research Centre for Molecular Medicine
University of Debrecen

E-mail: mmkk.office@med.unideb.hu

2005 Thomas A. Waldmann, National Institute of Health, USA

Dr. Thomas A. Waldmann was born on September 21st, 1930, in New York City, New York. He has received his first degree in 1951 from the University of Chicago, and an M.D. degree in 1955 from Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts. In 1956 he has become a clinical associate, and in 1958 a fellow of the American Heart Association at the Metabolism Branch of the National Cancer Institute, National Institutes of Health. At the National Cancer Institute he was appointed senior investigator in 1959, head of Immunology Section in 1968 and in 1971 the chief of Metabolism Branch, the position he fulfils till present.

In his early studies, Dr. Waldmann defined the metabolism of various immunoglobulins, providing the scientific basis for the dosing schedules of monoclonals and their fragments that are now being employed for the treatment of patients with cancer. Over the past two decades, his pivotal studies have revolutionized our understanding of the cytokine/cytokine receptor systems that are central to the function of T-lymphocytes in normal and leukemic states. He defined the first IL-2 receptor subunit, IL-2R alpha using the first ever reported anti-cytokine receptor monoclonal antibody (anti-Tac) that he had developed. His seminal studies have culminated in the definition of the IL-2R as an exceptionally valuable target for therapy of leukemia. More recently, Dr. Waldmann’s co-discovery of IL-15 and his demonstration of its role in the development and persistence of NK-cells and CD8 memory T-cells provided the scientific basis for the incorporation of IL-15 into molecular vaccines for cancer. Furthermore, his observations led Dr. Waldmann to propose that IL-15 be used in place of IL-2 in the treatment of renal cell malignancy and malignant melanoma.

Collectively, the studies of Dr. Waldmann have dominated the field of cytokines involved in T-cell immune responses. With over 680 publications, he is among the 40 most cited scientists of the world. He has been a pioneer and leader in the explosion of knowledge about monoclonal antibodies that has come of age and is now a dominant form of immunotherapy, with over 400 such agents in clinical trials; he is a world leader in the rational development and use of such monoclonal antibodies. His seminal discoveries which are at the cutting edge of scientific novelty and significance have been recognized by his invitation over 90 honorary lectures. As a result of landmark achievements, he has received many scientific prizes, including the Stratton Medal, the Paul Ehrlich Medal, the Lila Gruber Prize for Cancer Research, the Simon Shubitz Prize for Cancer Research, the CIBA-GEIGY Drew Award in Biomedical Research, the Abbott Prize in immunology, an Honorary Doctor from University of Debrecen, the Bristol-Myers Squibb Award for Distinguished Achievement in Cancer Research, as well as election to the Institute of Medicine, to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and to the US National Academy of Sciences.

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