In The News

Immunologist William Pollack passes away

Immunologist William Pollack passes away

THE immunologist William Pollack, who helped develop a way of eradicating a disease which had killed thousands of new-born babies, has passed away at the age of 87.

Dr. Pollack was born in London but had worked for most of his professional life in the United States.

It was in the 1960s that he and a number of colleagues — Dr. Vincent J. Freda and Dr. John G. Gorman in the U.S. and Sir Cyril Clarke and Dr. Ronald Finn in the U.K. — began working on ways of dealing with Rh disease which is when incompatible antigens in a mother’s blood puts her baby at risk. The disease had caused the deaths of more than 200,000 babies worldwide each year in the first half of the 20th. Century.

While most women have the Rh antigen present in their blood, for those that do not the problem arises if they have a child to a man who is Rh-positive and  the baby has the same blood group.

Dr. Pollack and his colleagues went on to develop a vaccine, which became known as RhoGAM, which could be given to pregnant women to prevent the development of Rh disease. The vaccine became commercially available in 1968. Today, Rh disease has been virtually eliminated.

The breakthrough was regarded by many as being among the most important made in medicine during the 20th. Century. The work received the prestigious Albert Lasker Clinical Medical Research Award in 1980.

In later years, Dr. Pollack founded his own company to explore how human antibodies could be used in the treatment of a range of diseases.

Dr. Pollack passed away in Yorba Linda in California. He is survived by his sons Malcolm and David.

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