JEAN B. DAUSSET OCTOBER 19, 1916 - JUNE 6, 2009

Professor Jean B. Dausset, who shared The Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine, 1980, for his discovery and development of the Human Major Histocompatibility Complex (MHC, also commonly called HLA), died in Mallorca, Spain, on June 6, 2009. He was 92 years old.

He shared the Nobel award with Professors George D. Snell and Baruj Benacerraf.

Landmark discoveries of Professor Dausset included agglutination of white blood cells by antibodies from patients who had received blood transfusions, which he realized was due to genetic variation, description of the first leukocyte antigen (now known as HLA-2) and of the first tissue group system (Hu-1, later named HLA), and correlation between graft survival and tissue incompatibility, the result of working with volunteer skin donors and recipients. He was active in finding associations of HLA with complex diseases. He was keen on using DNA polymorphisms to characterize HLA. Professors Dausset and E. Carosella collaborated in research into the role of HLA-G in human physiology with implications for immune tolerance in general and pregnancy in particular. Professor Dausset understood the importance of research collaboration and was a dedicated, leading-spirit in the HLA Workshops and Conferences, in which competitors collaborate by typing shared tissue resources.

Professor Dausset's research achievements were fundamental for the development of tissue typing, which improved the quality of clinical transplantation. He contributed even more to this field by founding France Transplant and France Greffe de Moelle, organizations dedicated to bringing donor organs and bone marrow to needy recipients in an efficient and rapid manner.

In 1984, Professor Dausset created the Centre d'Etude du Polymorphisme Humain (CEPH), a laboratory, later an internationally renowned genome center, which coordinated the first international genome mapping collaboration by making available DNA from 40 large reference families (later 61) to researchers throughout the world. By their working on DNA from the same set of families, it was possible to map the human genome by linkage, which placed a set of DNA markers along all human chromosomes (including the X-Y pseudoautosomal region). Knowledge of these chromosome maps, which was made available to the scientific community worldwide, permitted researchers, some at CEPH, to localize major genes for various genetic disorders to regions of the human genome. Localization of such genes was the first, important step in cloning and identifying them, a breakthrough for medical genetics. Furthermore, the linkage maps provided the foundation for the International Genome Project, the physical mapping of the human genome (largely initiated at CEPH), which in turn led to determination of the DNA sequence. The CEPH reference families continue to be used for genomics research. More recently, Professor Dausset collaborated with Professor L. L. Cavalli-Sforza in developing, at the Foundation, a widely used DNA resource from world populations for research in human population genetics, the HGDP-CEPH Diversity Panel.

In 1993, the CEPH became the Foundation Jean Dausset-CEPH, a non-profit research institute, funded in part by the Republic of France. Professor Dausset retired as President of the Foundation in 2003; he remained honorary President until his death.

Professor Dausset was a member of the French National Academy of Sciences, professor at the College de France, a foreign member of the National Academy of Sciences, USA, an honorary member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and a founding member of the Human Genome Organization. He received various prestigious prizes such as the Landsteiner Award and prizes from the Koch and Wolf Foundations. He served on advisory boards of numerous research institutions.

A CEPH collaborator wrote in a tribute to Professor Dausset, 'He set a standard for cooperative sharing in science with the goal of helping others that has truly revolutionized the ways in which we do our work. All of the genome sharing efforts of sequence and SNPs is based on his CEPH model. It's really not possible to even measure the impact this has had on science.'

Professor Dausset will be sorely missed by executives and personnel of the Foundation. Our sincere condolences to his wife and children.

The Centre d'Etude du Polymorphisme Humain (CEPH) is a research laboratory created in 1984 by Professor Jean Dausset (Nobel Prize, medicine and physiology, 1980).

Today, main activities are the setting up, storage, processing and distribution of DNA collections for the identification of genetic factors conferring susceptibility to complex disorders. These collections are established in partnership and full collaboration with external French or international research groups. The Foundation currently hosts the CEPH reference panel, the HGDP panel (Human genome Diversity Cell Line Panel) and several collections amounting mid-2008 to more than 250 000 samples.

The original idea of Professor Dausset was to provide the scientific community with resources for the human genome mapping.

The first set of reagents was composed of DNA from 61 large families, known as the CEPH reference panel, and which serve as the reference families for establishing genetic maps of the human genome.

The second set of reagents consisted in a bank of YAC clones, used to establish the physical map of the human genome.

In 1991, the CEPH and the AFM (the French muscular distrophy association) created the Généthon, a non profit research institute, in order to provide tools to the scientific community for the localization and cloning of disease determining genes.

The CEPH managed the physical mapping program. After the first generation integrated map of the human genome, in December 1993, the physical mapping program returned to the CEPH.

The CEPH and the Généthon now operate independently.

In April 1993, the CEPH became the Fondation Jean Dausset - CEPH


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Last update : 2009-06-12