Intended for healthcare professionals


Jean Dausset

BMJ 2009; 339 doi: (Published 28 July 2009) Cite this as: BMJ 2009;339:b3051
  1. Ned Stafford

    Immunogeneticist whose discoveries helped make organ transplantation safer

    In 1980 the steely determination of the French immunologist Jean Dausset won him the Nobel prize for physiology or medicine, which he shared with the US based immunologists Baruj Benacerraf and George Snell. The three were honoured “for their discoveries concerning genetically determined structures on the cell surface that regulate immunological reactions,” discoveries that led to improved chances of successful organ transplantation.

    “He was a quiet person. Every time I spoke with him, he struck me as a gentleman,” says Luigi Luca Cavalli-Sforza, the Italian born population geneticist, now retired from Stanford University. But beyond that mild exterior was a blazing scientific curiosity that drove Dausset forward, always striving to better understand human immunology. “It was always go, go, go with him,” says Laurent Degos, who became a resident in 1967 under Dausset, head of the immunology department, at Hôpital Saint-Louis in Paris. Whenever Dausset had an idea he would not let anything or anyone stand in his way. Dr Degos, now chairman of the French National Authority for Health (HAS), says, “He did not like to have any obstacles.”

    Human leucocyte antigens

    Dausset’s contribution was his discovery in 1958 of …

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