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May 4, 2018
Melchers Lecture To Mark Exhibit Opening, May 14

Dr. Katherine A. Fitzgerald
Dr. Fritz Melchers (l) with NCI’s Dr. Michael Potter in 2004 at event marking Potter’s 50th year at NIH.

PHOTO: BEVERLY MOCK

Dr. Fritz Melchers, a professor of immunology at the University of Basel, Switzerland, will deliver a lecture on Monday, May 14 honoring the scientific accomplishments of Dr. Michael Potter, the Lasker award-winning NIH scientist who helped establish the field of monoclonal antibodies, largely seen as one of the greatest advances in medical research of the 20th century.

Melchers’ lecture, from 9:30 to 10:30 a.m. in Lipsett Amphitheater, Bldg. 10, will mark the official opening of twin historical exhibits in Bldg. 10 celebrating the lives of Potter and Nobel laureate Dr. Christian Anfinsen. (This will be the first of two celebratory lectures; the second, honoring Anfinsen, will be held in the fall.)

Melchers is a leading expert in the field of immunology and, in particular, B cell immunology. From 1980 to 2001, he was director of the Basel Institute for Immunology, an organization with more than 300 scientific investigators. During this time, he and Potter held a series of workshops alternating between Bethesda and Basel concerning mechanisms of B-cell neoplasia, a precursor to abnormal tissue growth.

Potter, who died in 2013, was an ingenious and generous researcher whose 50-year career at the National Cancer Institute was distinguished by significant discoveries and superb mentoring. His work focused primarily on plasma cells, a form of white blood cells that produce antibodies. His 1984 Albert Lasker Award for Basic Medical Research was for his “elegant studies of plasma cell tumors, leading to the development of monoclonal antibodies and enlarging our knowledge of carcinogenesis and the immune system.”

The twin exhibits—titled “Curiosity & Collaboration: The Work of Michael Potter” and “Christian Boehmer Anfinsen: Protein Folding and the Nobel Prize”—are positioned in the long, first-floor corridor, just north of the FAES bookstore and are expected to be fully installed by May 14.

Following Melchers’ talk, there will be a ceremony to officially open the exhibits for both Potter and Anfinsen.

Like Potter, Anfinsen had a long and distinguished career at NIH, first at what was then called the National Heart Institute and later as chief of the Laboratory of Chemical Biology in what is now the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. Anfinsen’s book, The Molecular Basis of Evolution, published in 1959, demonstrated the scientific and disciplinary affinities between molecular genetics and protein chemistry. Anfinsen shared half of the 1972 Nobel Prize in chemistry for “work on ribonuclease, especially concerning the connection between the amino acid sequence and the biologically active conformation.”

The exhibits were built by the Office of NIH History and Stetten Museum with funding from NIDDK, NHLBI and NCI.

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