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Jack Strominger, M.D.

Immunology pioneer Jack Strominger investigates self-tolerance and the immunology of pregnancy. His lab specializes in the structure and function of human histocompatibility proteins and their roles in disease.

Strominger entered Harvard in 1942, joined Harvard’s Navy V-12 program, and majored in psychology. He attended Yale Medical School, where he became interested in life-science research. Over his long scientific career, he has published over 960 scientific papers.

Strominger discovered how penicillin kills bacteria, and how the immune cells distinguish between “own” and “foreign” cells. In 1987, with colleague Don Wiley, he isolated, crystallized, and determined the 3D structures of two classes of MHC proteins. The resulting crystallography images showed that the proteins have a pronounced cleft packed with antigens, which exhibits antigens to killer T cells. This discovery clarified how the adaptive immune response is initiated. MHC proteins attack pathogens, implanted tissue, and the body’s own tissues in the case of autoimmune disease.

Professor Strominger has more than 30 awards to his name, including the Lasker Award and Japan Prize (both shared with Don Wiley). Former members of his laboratory include twelve Harvard professors, twelve National Academy of Science members, and two Nobel laureates.

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