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Vol. LXIV, No. 23
November 9, 2012

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Renowned British Researcher Addresses TB Workshop
Dr. Denis Mitchison (second from r and pictured below), 93, participates in workshop on tuberculosis, a field in which he is renowned.
Dr. Denis Mitchison (second from r and pictured below), 93, participates in workshop on tuberculosis, a field in which he is renowned.

Distinguished tuberculosis researcher Dr. Denis Mitchison provided a historical and current view of pyrazinamide, a key TB treatment drug, during his keynote address at a recent NIH-sponsored workshop—Demystifying Pyrazinamide (PZA): Challenges and Opportunities—at Johns Hopkins University.

Mitchison, who turned 93 on Sept. 3, pioneered combination tuberculosis treatment clinical trials in the 1950s that formed the basis for current standard therapy, an approach that is credited with saving millions of lives. In 1956, he was appointed director of the Medical Research Council unit for research on drug sensitivity in tuberculosis at the Royal Postgraduate Medical School in Hammersmith, London (now called Imperial College), a position he held until retirement in 1985. Post-retirement, Mitchison has remained active in TB research, continuing his work at Hammersmith for 4 years before moving to St. George’s University of London, where he is an emeritus professor.

Dr. Denis Mitchison

The NIH workshop focused on learning more about pyrazinamide’s mechanism of action, resistance patterns, as well as the toxicities associated with its use. Roughly 100 representatives from government agencies, the pharmaceutical industry, academia and non-profit organizations from Africa, China, Europe and the United States attended the event. The workshop was co-sponsored by NIAID, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and Johns Hopkins University.

Although Mitchison seldom travels anymore, he was thrilled to fly across the Atlantic Ocean to attend the TB workshop. Full of wisdom, experience and innovative ideas, his talk on the “History and Current Status of PZA” was well-received. Fellow attendees wished him a happy birthday and many more years of health and continued success in his efforts to develop improved treatments for TB.

When asked why Mitchison is still so active and energetic, his colleague and fellow workshop attendee, 75-year-old Dr. Amina Jindani of St. George’s University, said, “It is his passion for TB research that keeps him young.”

“Most TB survivors may not realize that they owe their lives to the research Mitchison spearheaded, but to those of us who work in the TB field, he is an inspiration and a hero,” said Dr. Richard Hafner, acting chief of the TB Clinical Research Branch in NIAID’s Division of AIDS. “NIH was truly honored by his attendance at our workshop.”—Jing Bao

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