FRENCH immunologist and Nobel prize winner, Jean Dausset died at Son Llatzer hospital in Palma yesterday at the age of 92 following a respiratory illness. He leaves behind him a life dedicated to advances in medicine, specifically to organ transplants.
The regional Health ministry acknowledged the loss of what it described as a great researcher. His key contribution was the discovery of a compatibility system to control the problems arising from a body's automatic attempts to reject a newly transplanted organ. When the system is applied, it heightens the compatibility between donor and receptor, maximising the chances of transplant success.
The ministry added that because of Dausset's landmark discovery, thousands of lives can now be saved when organ donor's are made available.
The French doctor, said a spokesman, lived the last stage of his life at Biniaraix on Majorca and was perfectly integrated in the academic medical world of the Island. He was awarded an Honorary Doctorate in Medicine by the Balearic University in 2005 and named an adoptive son of the town of Soller in 2003. Awarded the Balearic's prestigious Ramon Llull prize - also in 2005 - Dausset was recognised for the way he converted his pure scientific discoveries into practical strategies which could be used by the medical world to promote the quality of human life. The Ramon Llull prize simultaneously acknowledged his links over a good number of years with the Balearic Islands.
Born in 1916 in Toulouse, Dausset studied in Paris' Faculty of Medicine where he was awarded a doctorate in 1945 at the end of the Second World War. In the 1950s, he was preoccuped with the state of medical research in France and undertook with Professor Robert Debré to institute radical reforms in the hospital and university structures. This work as Advisor to the Cabinet of the National Ministry of Education, spanned three consecutive years and culminated in a law which established full-time employment in French hospitals, introducing to the hospitals professors of basic sciences who were given hospital responsibilities. This reform permitted a soar in French biology and brought a new lease of life to French medical research.
In 1980, Dausset received the Nobel Prize for Physiology and Medicine for his collaboration with Baruj Benacerraf and George Davis Snell on the discovery and characterisation of genes. With his Nobel Prize and a grant from French Television, Dausset was able in 1984 to create the Human Polymorphism Study Centre (CEPH)which soon after became the Jean Dausset Foundation.