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César Milstein (1927 - 2002)


Born in Bahía Blanca, Argentina, César Milstein graduated from Buenos Aires University with an undergraduate degree in chemistry in 1945. From there he went to England and joined Frederick Sanger's lab at Cambridge, where he received his Ph.D. in 1960. In 1961, he returned to Argentina to become Head of the Division of Molecular Biology at the National Institute of Microbiology. When dozens of faculty members were dismissed following the military coup, Milstein resigned in protest and returned to Cambridge. He joined the staff of the Medical Research Council at the Laboratory of Molecular Biology in 1963.

Milstein conducted groundbreaking work into the synthesis of antibodies, proteins that are produced by the cells of the immune system in response to attacks by foreign bodies called antigens. His work was instrumental in the development of monoclonal antibody technology. By fusing antibody-producing B lymphocyte cells with tumor cells that are "immortal," his lab was able to produce a "hybridoma," which could continuously synthesize antibodies. All of the antibodies produced by this type of hybridoma cell were identical, the same as those produced by the B cell before it was fused.

Because the antibodies that are produced by this process all come from a single clone of hybridoma cells, they are called monoclonal antibodies. This technique of monoclonal antibody production, developed in 1975 with Georges Kohler, has been used extensively in the commercial development of new drugs and diagnostic tests. For his efforts, Milstein was awarded the Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine with Georges Kohler and Niels Jerne in 1984.


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