Harvard Medical School
Harvard Medical School (HMS) was founded in 1782 and has more than 8,000 resident physicians and postdoctoral fellows and over 10,000 faculty members. Harvard immunologists have made seminal contributions to the study of the immune system and continue to make significant contributions in basic and clinical immunology. Albert Coons, an HMS and Massachusetts General Hospital trained physician and immunologist, was the first person to conceive of coupling antibodies with fluorescent molecules or enzymes that generate colored reaction products for the purpose of identifying antigens on microbes and in tissues. He invented the techniques of immunofluorescence and immunohistochemistry at HMS in the 1940s. Charles Janeway Sr. pioneered the identification and treatment of primary immunodeficiency disorders and made enormous contributions to the description and study of pediatric rheumatic diseases.
Although Jonas Salk and Albert Sabin became household names in their time for developing polio vaccines, there would have been no vaccine without the enormous contributions made by John Enders and his colleagues Frederick Robbins and Thomas Weller who were Harvard Medical School graduates and worked at Children’s Hospital in Boston. They pioneered the ability to grow the poliovirus in the laboratory, which was crucial for subsequent polio vaccine development. Enders, Robbins, and Weller received the Nobel Prize for Physiology and Medicine in 1954.
Baruj Benacerraf, who was at Harvard for forty years, used inbred mice to help establish the genetic basis for the strength of immune responses, linking immune responsiveness to major histocompatibility complex (MHC) loci originally discovered in the context of organ rejection. MHC proteins were first purified in the laboratory of Jack Strominger at Harvard, and the structures of these purified proteins were first determined by Pamela Bjorkmann and Don Wiley, also at Harvard. Benacerraf contributed enormously to the growth of immunology and immunologists at Harvard Medical School from the early 1970s until the end of the 20th century and Harvard’s large and dynamic immunology community today reflects his legacy. Benacerraf shared the Nobel Prize for Physiology and Medicine in 1980 with John Dausset and George Snell.
Brigham and Women's Hospital
Brigham and Women's Hospital (BWH) is recognized internationally for its excellence in patient care, its outstanding reputation in biomedical research, and its commitment to educating and training physicians, research scientists, and other health care professionals. The hospital has a long legacy of making significant contributions to scientific advancement in the field of medicine. In 1926, Drs. William Murphy, George Whipple, and George Minot discovered that liver extracts cure pernicious anemia. In 1934, they shared the Nobel Prize for this work. In 1929, the first polio victim was saved using the newly developed Drinker Respirator, widely known as the iron lung, at the Peter Bent Brigham Hospital (later to become one of the founding hospitals of BWH) in collaboration with Children's Hospital Medical Center and the Harvard School of Public Health.
A Harvard surgeon, Joseph Murray, experimented on organ transplantation in large animals and recognized that genetic similarity between donor and host helped prevent rejection – in keeping with the laws of transplantation. In 1954, at the Peter Bent Brigham Hospital, Murray performed the world’s first successful human organ transplant using a twin as a donor. Murray explored the use of immunosuppression in transplantation, and in 1959 he also performed the first successful human organ transplantation that did not involve twins. In 1962 Murray performed the first human transplant using a cadaver donor and in 1990 he shared the Nobel Prize for Physiology and Medicine with E. Donnall Thomas for his work and the subsequent development of immunosuppressive drugs.
In 1984, the first heart transplant in New England was performed at Brigham and Women’s Hospital. In 1992, a gene responsible for a severe, early-onset form of hypertension that runs in families was identified at BWH. In addition, BWH researchers discovered that a protein (amyloid beta) thought to be an early, causative feature of Alzheimer’s disease is also present in healthy individuals, and that patients with Alzheimer’s produce too much of this protein or cannot break it down properly. In 1994, BWH unveiled the world’s first Intra-Operative Magnetic Resonance Imaging System. This invention, which enables clinicians to take images of the body’s interior during surgery, makes it possible to cure patients with brain tumors that previously were considered inoperable.