Jean Dausset

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Toulouse, France
Birth Sign
Toulouse, France

Jean-Baptiste-Gabriel-Joachim Dausset was a French immunologist who shared the 1980 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine with Baruj Benacerraf and George Davis Snell. His most significant contribution during a career devoted to research was the identification of human leukocyte antigens (HLA) and the genes that code for them. His research findings were deemed to have altered previously held beliefs about the human immune system. Jean Dausset graduated from the University of Paris with a degree in medicine and served in the French army during World War II, where he was introduced to human blood transfusions. Following the war, he began his career in exchange transfusion research, gaining an understanding of immune haemotology techniques and observing leuco- and thrombo-agglutination. His research focused on the immunogenetics of blood cells. He won the 1980 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for his independent discovery of ‘genetically determined structures on the cell surface that regulate immunological responses.’ He founded the Centre D’eute du Polymorphisme Humain with the prize money. Jean Dausset was a member of a number of prestigious professional organizations, including the National Academy of Sciences, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and the Académie des Sciences de l’Institut de France.

Childhood & Adolescence

Jean-Baptiste-Gabriel-Joachim Dausset was born in Toulouse, France on 19 October 1916. Henri Dausset was a physician who served as a captain in the army, and Elizabeth Brullard Dausset was his mother.

He spent his early years in Biarritz, France. He and his family moved to Paris when he was 11 years old. He attended the Lycée Michelet for his secondary education and earned a baccalaureate in mathematics.

He enrolled at the University of Paris to study medicine in response to his father’s interest. When World War II began, he was preparing for an internship entrance exam. He was assigned to the French army and stationed in North Italy for a year during the war.

In 1940, he returned to Paris and passed the entrance examination for a medical internship.

Career of Jean

He left for North Africa to join the fighting forces after receiving the title of medical intern. He performed blood transfusions as part of his duties. This was his first encounter with immunohematology.

In 1944, he returned to Paris and was tasked with the responsibility of collecting blood samples throughout the Paris area in collaboration with the regional Blood Transfusion Center at Hospital Saint-Antoine.

He began his first research project during this time period with Professor Marcel Bessis, who invented the technique of exchange transfusion in adults and newborns.

In 1946, he was appointed Director of Laboratories at the National Blood Transfusion Center. He remained employed at the Center until 1963. While at this location, he concentrated on immunohaematology techniques for red blood cells and attempted to apply them to white blood cells and blood platelets as well.

He conducted research to establish the presence of specific antibody types in the human body. He studied immune responses through transfusions of volunteer patients and donors.

In 1952, he made the first observations on thrombo- and leuco-agglutination, and since then, his research has focused on the immunogenetics of blood cells.

He developed the first leucocyte antigen, MAC, in 1958, which became known as HLA-A2. At the time, he was the Director of the Immuno-Haematology Laboratory at the National Blood Transfusion Center.

During the early 1960s, he served as a three-year advisor to the Cabinet of the National Ministry of Education. He worked to reform medical college and university structures, as well as to enact a law requiring full-time employment. His participation benefited both the medical and educational systems in France.

In 1958, he was appointed Assistant Professor of Haematology at the Paris Faculty of Medicine. He was promoted to Professor in 1963 and later appointed Head of the Immunology Department at Hospital Saint Louis.

He continued his research in anemia, agglutination, and antibodies, and in 1965 described Hu-1, the first tissue group system, later dubbed HLA.

Until 1968, he was instrumental in establishing the Research Institute for Blood Diseases, serving as Assistant Director during that time. Among the departments he oversaw was the Immunogenetics of Human Transplantation research wing. Since 1968, he has served as the unit’s Director.

In 1977, he was appointed head of the University of Paris’s Department of Immunology. He retained, however, his research activities at the Hospital Saint Louis laboratory.

In 1984, he founded the Centre D’eute du Polymorphisme Humain – a center for genome research (CEPH). He established this center with funds from his Nobel Prize. He became President of CEPH in 2003, following his retirement.

In his later years, he served as chairman of the France Bone Marrow Grafts Registry, an organization that assists donors and recipients in matching bone marrow.

Significant Works of Jean

Jean Dausset was an immunologist who specialized in the genetics of immune reactions. He studied hepatitis, colon-rectal cancer cells, cloning disease-related genes, and Crohn’s disease as part of his research.

Awards and Accomplishments

He received the 1967 ‘Grand Prix des Sciences Chimiques et Naturelles’ (Académie des Sciences). He also received the ‘Médaille d’Argent du Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique’ that same year. He received the Grand Prix Scientifique de la Ville de Paris in 1969.

He was presented with the Karl Landsteiner Memorial Award by the American Association of Blood Banks in 1970. That year, he also received the Stratton Lecture Award.

In 1977, he was awarded the Robert Koch Prize. He also received the Gairdner Foundation International Award that year.

In 1978, he was awarded the Wolf Prize in Medicine by Israel’s Wolf Foundation. He and Baruj Benacerraf and George D. Snell shared the 1980 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine.

The trio was recognized “for their discoveries regarding genetically determined structures on the cell surface that regulate immune responses.”

Personal History and Legacies

In 1963, James Dausset married Rose Mayoral and they had two children, Henri and Irène. He died in Majorca, Spain, on 6 June 2009, at the age of 92. The CEPH centre was renamed in his honor as the ‘Fondation Jean Dausset-CEPH’.

Estimated Net Worth

The estimated net worth of Jean is $18million.