Dr Abraham Karpas Dr Vet Med (Zurich) MA ScD (Cantab)

Emeritus Fellow

  • Formerly Assistant Director of Research, CU Dept of Haematology

Dr Karpas was Assistant Professor of Research Paediatrics at the University of Cincinnati before joining the department of haematology as Assistant Director of Research in 1969. Beforehand he was at Harvard Medical School after training in medical virology at the Institute Pasteur in Paris. His initial research project in Cambridge was the possible viral involvement in human leukaemia. In the process he was the first in the UK to succeed in the development of human leukemic cell lines for continuous in vitro proliferation. The earlier studies of the cell lines led to the discovery of a human humoral cytotoxic factor which is also known as tumour necrosis factor (TNF). It also led to the first UK isolation of the virus that was discovered in Japan to cause Adult T-cell leukaemia. When AIDS was identified as a new human disease the availability of the human leukaemic T-cells enabled his laboratory to be the first in the UK to isolate the viruses (HIV-1&2) that cause the disease. It also led to the development of one of the earliest tests for anti-HIV antibodies and to the finding that AIDS patients lost the ability to generate antibodies. This observation led in 1985 to initiate in Cambridge passive immunotherapy which at the time was the only beneficial treatment for AIDS patients. In the beginning of the millennium he manage to get one of the myeloma cell lines he developed 20 years earlier to generate the first human hybridomas that secreted human monoclonal antibodies. The numerous human cell lines developed in his laboratory are still being used by academic researchers as well as pharmaceutical laboratories around the world.