Jean Dausset Biography (1916-)


Jean Dausset was born in Toulouse, France, and moved with his family to Parisat age eleven. After having earned an undergraduate degree in mathematics, he enrolled in the University of Paris medical school. When World War II brokeout in 1939, Dausset joined the French medical corps. After France fell to the Germans in 1940, Dausset went to North Africa to fight with the Free French army. Before leaving Paris, Dausset gave all his identification papers to aJewish colleague, who was therefore able to survive the Nazi occupation.

After the war ended, Dausset completed his studies at the university, receiving his medical degree in 1945. From 1946 to 1958 Dausset was director of laboratories at the French National Blood Transfusion Center, although he left for two years (1948-49) to study hematology under a fellowship at Harvard Medical School.

Dausset's work at the blood center, and earlier experiences during the war with transfusions, drew him into studies of abnormal transfusion reactions. In1952 he discovered anantigen on certain people's white blood cells. By 1958,when he joined the medical faculty at the University of Paris, he had found more variants of the antigen. In 1965, Dausset suggested that these and othernewly discovered antigens were all part of a single set of linked genes, which constituted the human MHC (major histocompatibility complex). He called this the human leucocyte antigen group ( HLA) and, in 1967, showed that tissue transplants are more successful when donor and recipient have matching HLA types. In 1967 Dausset was the first researcher to investigate possible links between an individual's HLA types and the person's risk for disease. For all ofthese findings about HLA, Dausset shared the 1980 Nobel Prize for physiologyor medicine with George Snell and Baruj Benacerraf. Dausset had become headbiologist of Paris's city hospital system in 1963 and also headed the Institute for Research into Diseases of the Blood. In 1968 he assumed directorship of the French National Institute for Scientific Research and became a professor of medicine at the University of Paris and, since 1978, the College of France. He remained at the university through the 1980s, continuing his studies of HLA. He has since founded the Human Polymorphism Study Center in Paris andhas helped organize a collaboration to map the human genome. As his personalmotto he chose "Vouloir pour valoir," or, roughly translated, "To achieve a lofty goal, you must aspire to it. "

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