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Elvin A. Kabat

  • National Medal of Science
  • Biological Sciences

For his seminal contributions in the field of immunology, and for bringing the field to its present prominence.

Elvin A. Kabat was a graduate student in the 1930’s studying under the researcher Michael Heidelberger, who discovered that antibodies are proteins. Antibodies are produced by the body to counter toxins, bacteria and other antigens, and Kabat set the course for mapping their molecular structure.

Armed with insight from Heidelberger’s work, Kabat vastly extended the research on antibodies into their chemical composing and activity, including their roles as a component of gamma globulin, the component of blood serum used to combat infectious diseases, such as measles and hepatitis. He is recognized as the founder of immunochemistry– the study of the chemical reactions and phenomena of immunity.

Kabat developed a laboratory technique used in the study of multiple sclerosis and other human autoimmune diseases, in which the body’s immune system attacks other parts of the body. Kabat’s work has advanced our understanding of developmental biology, inflammation, autoimmunity and blood transfusion medicine, leading to treatments that have saved countless lives.