Birthplace: Bahía Blanca, Argentina
Location of death: Cambridge, England
Cause of death: Heart Failure
Race or Ethnicity: Hispanic
Sexual orientation: Straight
Executive summary: Hybridoma technique (monoclonal antibodies)
Molecular biologist and immunologist César Milstein, working with his post-doctoral fellow, Georges J.F. Köhler, discovered a way to generate large quantities of specific antibodies. Called "monoclonal antibodies," their technique starts with a cell which naturally recognizes invaders and produces antibodies, and fuses that cell to a tumor cell, which lives and reproduces indefinitely, effectively creating a microscopic factory that produces specific antibodies.
Millstein and Köhler announced their finding with a short letter to the scientific journal Nature, writing that it "could be valuable for medical and industrial use," though Milstein worried that such a claim might seem "immodest". It was one of the most important twentieth-century breakthroughs in medical science, and triggered greatly increased use of antibodies in research, diagnostic tests, and drug therapies against numerous cancers, AIDS, and other diseases. Milstein and Köhler won the Nobel Prize for Medicine in 1984, sharing the award with Danish scientist Niels K. Jerne.
Raised in Argentina, Milstein became an outspoken political opponent of Juan Peron, and eventually fled the country for his own safety. He spent most of his career at Cambridge, where he became a naturalized Englishman (while never renouncing his Argentine citizenship), and worked with two-time Nobel laureate Frederick Sanger. He was married to biochemist Celia Prilleltensky, who worked in a different laboratory at Cambridge and was occasionally her husband's collaborator and co-author on scientific papers. He retired in 1995, but remained a frequent presence in his lab almost to the day of his death.
Father: Lázaro Milstein
Mother: Máxima Milstein
Wife: Celia Prilleltensky (biochemist, m. 1953)
University: BS, University of Buenos Aires (1944)
Teacher: Chemistry, University of Buenos Aires (1944-52)
Scholar: Enzymology, University of Buenos Aires (1950-57)
University: PhD Biochemistry, University of Buenos Aires (1957)
Scholar: National Institute of Microbiology, Buenos Aires (1957-58, 1961-63)
University: PhD Biochemistry, Cambridge University (1960)
Teacher: Biochemistry, Cambridge University (1960-61)
Teacher: Molecular Biology, Cambridge University (1963-95)
Wolf Prize in Medicine 1980
Royal Medal 1982
Lasker Award 1984
Nobel Prize for Medicine 1984 (with Niels K. Jerne and Georges J.F. Köhler)
Copley Medal 1989
National Academy of Sciences
Naturalized UK Citizen
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