Biography: Thomas A. Waldmann, M.D.

Thomas A. Waldmann, M.D.

Dr. Waldmann received his M.D. from Harvard Medical School. He joined the NCI in 1956 and has been chief of the Metabolism Branch since 1973. Dr. Thomas Waldmann defined the five major classes of immunoglobulins and their fragments, the physiological factors that control immunoglobulin catabolism, as well as disorders of immunoglobulin catabolism and loss in disease states.  These studies provided the scientific basis for the dosing schemes now used in therapy with monoclonal antibodies and their fragments.  Dr. Waldmann defined genetic diseases where low immunoglobulin levels were not associated with decreased synthesis but with hypercatabolism or loss.  He helped defined the syndrome, protein-losing enteropathy and described the PLE syndrome in intestine, lymphangiectasia and allergic gastroenteropathy.  Furthermore, he defined hypercatabolism of IgG in patients with myotonic dystrophy and of IgG and albumin in patients with familial hypercatabolic hypoproteinemia, a disorder wherein Waldmann and Anderson defined a mutation in the signal peptide of beta-2 microglobulin, an element of FcRn involved in the concentration-catabolism effect of immunoglobulins and albumin.  With his coworkers, Stanley Korsmeyer and Philip Leder Dr. Waldmann introduced the analysis of immunoglobulin and T-cell receptor gene rearrangements and established a hierarchical order of immunoglobulin gene rearrangements in humans wherein heavy-chain rearrangements precede those of light chains and kappa-gene rearrangement precede lambda gene rearrangements.  

Dr. Waldmann defined the IL-2 receptor subunits IL-2R beta (CD122) and IL-2R alpha (CD25) using the first ever reported cytokine receptor monoclonal antibody (anti-Tac, daclizumab, Zenapax) which he developed.  He introduced different forms of IL-2 receptor directed therapy.  

Waldmann is the co-discoverer of IL-15 and elucidated its role in the development and persistence of NK and CD8 memory phenotype T-cells.  

Dr. Waldmann has received many honors recognizing his scientific contributions that include: the Ciba-Geigy Drew Award in Biomedical Research, the Artois-Baillet Latour Health Prize, the Bristol-Myers Squibb Award in Cancer Research, the Paul Ehrlich Medal, the AAI-Dana Foundation Award, as well as election to the National Academy of Sciences, American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the Institute of Medicine of the NAS, Hungarian Academy of Sciences, and as a Fellow of the Royal Society of the Medical Sciences (UK).

To recognize his major contributions to human immunology, including landmark studies of catabolism of immunoglobulins and immunoglobulin gene rearrangements, the Foundation of Primary Immunodeficiency is pleased to establish Thomas Waldmann Award for Excellence in Human Immunology, which to be awarded annually to an outstanding immunologist/cell biology whose scientific investigation directly or indirectly contributed significantly to the field of primary immunodeficiency diseases.