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NIH Record

NIAID Dedicates Room in Wolff's Memory

By Karen Leighty

On Dec. 11, NIAID paid tribute to the memory of Dr. Sheldon M. Wolff, who profoundly influenced immunology and infectious diseases research and served as a mentor to an extraordinary number of individuals who went on to distinguished careers in biomedical research.

Under the sponsorship of NIAID director Dr. Anthony Fauci, a state-of-the-art conference room in Bldg. 10's 11th floor solarium was dedicated in a ceremony that included Wolff's widow, family and a corps of friends and former colleagues.

Dr. Sheldon M. Wolff

"Shelly Wolff was my professional father, my mentor, my closest friend," said Fauci. "He continues to be revered at NIH and throughout the extramural community. His vision, remarkable work ethic, and keen attention to the development of the careers of younger physician-scientists left an extraordinary legacy."

Wolff began his NIH career in 1960, when he joined NIAID's Laboratory of Clinical Investigation (LCI) following his medical residency. Within a short time, his strengths as an investigator, clinician, teacher and administrator had infused the lab with a new vigor. He subsequently became NIAID clinical director and chief of LCI. Under his leadership, LCI became one of the most productive and respected clinical research teams in the country.

The thread that tied Wolff's bench science to his work with patients was his dedication to the study of fever. His early investigations stemmed from the fundamental question: why does the body produce heat in response to an invasion of microorganisms? In pursuing this question, he made major contributions in elucidating the causes of fever, the effects of fever on the host, and the role of fever in infectious, inflammatory and immunologic disorders.

Fevers of unknown origin also attracted his attention. He not only identified the immunologic defects that caused many such illnesses, but also found effective, often lifesaving treatments for these conditions.

Fauci and Wolff collaborated in dramatically successful protocols with immunosuppressive drugs for treating Wegener's granulomatosis, polyarteritis nodosa, and other systemic necrotizing vasculitic disorders.

Together with another colleague, Dr. Charles Dinarello, Wolff also made important contributions to understanding human leukocytic pyrogen (now called interleukin-1), a powerful component of the immune system.

Wolff left NIH in 1977 to become professor and chairman of the department of medicine at Tufts University School of Medicine. He also accepted the position of physician-in-chief at Boston's New England Medical Center Hospital. He maintained a close association with NIAID, however, including service on numerous advisory committees.

Wolff died of complications of a long illness in 1994. His contributions to biomedical research serve as a symbol of both the achievements and the goals of NIAID.

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