Strominger, Jack

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STROMINGER, JACK (1925– ), U.S. biochemist. Born in New York, he graduated in psychology from Harvard University and received his M.D. from Yale University. After clinical training at Barnes Hospital (1948–49) and an American College of Physicians research fellowship in the department of pharmacology at Washington University School of Medicine, St. Louis (1949–51), he worked at the National Institutes of Health (nih), Bethesda (1951–54). Next he visited the Carlsberg Laboratory, Copenhagen, and the Molteno Laboratory at Cambridge University, England, as a Commonwealth Fund Fellow (1954–55). He returned to Washington University School of Medicine (1958–64) where he was professor of pharmacology and microbiology from 1961. He moved to the University of Wisconsin Medical School, Madison, as professor of pharmacology and chemical microbiology and chairman of the department of pharmacology (1964–68). In 1968 he joined the staff of Harvard University as professor of biochemistry in the department of biochemistry and molecular biology (1968–83), where he was department chairman (1970–73), director of basic sciences in the Sidney Farber Cancer Center (1974–77), and head of the division of tumor virology from 1977. He became the Higgins Professor of Biochemistry. Strominger's early research clarified the mechanism by which penicillin kills bacteria by blocking the production of bacterial cell walls. His research interests then centered on immunology. With his colleague, the late Don Wiley, he investigated the structures on cell surfaces, called histocompatibility or "mhc" antigens, that largely distinguish one individual's tissues from another. Some of these antigens capture protein fragments derived from invading microorganisms. The immune system identifies and destroys these cells as a major defense mechanism against infection. mhc antigens are also central to the problems of organ transplant rejection and autoimmune diseases resulting from an immune attack against "self" antigens. Strominger and Wiley worked out the precise structure of the most important mhc antigens and the manner in which these combine with protein fragments to stimulate an immune response. Subsequently Strominger, who continued to work in his laboratory, and his colleagues investigated autoimmune diseases, especially multiple sclerosis, with the aim of using protein fragments to block harmful immune responses. He founded Peptimmune, a company that produces small proteins for therapeutic purposes. His administrative skills helped to establish Harvard's renowned department of molecular and cellular biology whose alumni have also had a major influence on teaching and research in other institutions. He has also contributed to the activities of WHO and other international organizations. His many honors include membership of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences, the Pasteur Medal (1990), the Lasker Award for Basic Medical Science (1995), and the Japan Prize (the last two prizes with Don Wiley).

[Michael Denman (2nd ed.)]