37 years ago, César Milstein received the Nobel Prize in Medicine, the last Argentine to achieve it

37 years ago, more precisely on October 15, 1984, the doctor in chemistry Cesar Milstein he became the fifth Argentine citizen to receive a renowned Nobel Prize. In this case, it was the Physiology or Medicine award. Was the last Nobel Prize that an Argentine received Until now.

Milstein he obtained this recognition together with Niels Jerne and Georges Kölher from the Institute of Immunology in Basel. He himself would be delivered for his discoveries about the immune system and principle of monoclonal antibody production.

The endless and thorough investigation was as or even much more difficult than winning the award. It all started in 1964, after being summoned to work under the prestigious name of the Medical Research Council of Cambridge, UK.

Cesar Milstein, during his days as part of the Cambridge Medical Research Council, UK.
Cesar Milstein Nobel Prize
The doctor in Chemistry giving a lecture on the operation of monoclonal antibodies.

In parallel, already at 37 years old, He also managed to be part of the Molecular Biology Laboratory. There he worked on the study of immunoglobulins and began to advance the understanding about the process by which the blood produces antibodies.

Next to Kölher developed a technique to create antibodies with identical chemical structure, which he called monoclonal antibodies (The proteins in charge of fighting the presence of foreign bodies or antigens).

The production of monoclonal antibodies allows the early detection of tumors, many of them carcinogenic. Created synthetically in a laboratory, they carry drugs, toxins, or radioactive materials to cancer cells.

Cesar Milstein Nobel Prize
The official announcement of the awarding of the Nobel Prize to César Milstein, Niels Jerne and Georges Kölher.
Cesar Milstein Nobel Prize
Jerne, Kölher and Milstein at the ceremony to receive the highest award in Physiology and Medicine.

In this way, block molecules that cancer cells need to multiply, mark cancer cells for destruction by the immune system, or increase the percentage of damage cancer cells can receive.

Despite the impact his research had on the scientific world, the laureate never reserved the rights of the same. According to your libertarian convictions, his work was of no economic interest and only of scientific interest.

Even, desisted from registering any patent for the finding. He believed that these kinds of revelations were but a part of humanity’s vast intellectual property. And it was so, until his death, he worked for others and not for himself.

Cesar Milstein Nobel Prize
The native of Bahía Blanca receives his award in Stockholm.
Cesar Milstein Nobel Prize
Grinning from ear to ear, Milstein displays a medal with the face of Alfred Nobel.

A brief review of the life and work of César Milstein

Milstein was born in White Bay, province of Buenos Aires, on October 8, 1927 in the bosom of a Ukrainian Jewish family. He was the son of Lázaro Milstein, who had arrived in Argentina at the age of fourteen. Lázaro married the teacher. Maximum Vapñarsky.

Both settled in the province of Buenos Aires where their three children would later be born. Caesar was the second of three brothers. He received a doctorate in Chemistry in 1956 and received a special award from the Argentine Biochemical Society.

In 1957, he presented himself and was selected by competition to work as a researcher at the Carlos Malbrán National Institute of Microbiology. After the military coup in 1962, Milstein’s work was undermined by political pressure..

Cesar Milstein Nobel Prize
Milstein, in his MRC gown, distinctive glasses and in the company of a microscope.
Cesar Milstein Nobel Prize
Surrounded by laboratory articles and instruments, the Chemistry doctor looks at the camera in surprise.

As said previously, in 1964 he would reside in Great Britain. There would begin his monoclonal antibody-based research, which would earn you a well-deserved Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine.

In relation to other awards with which he was awarded, the National University of the South of Bahía Blanca decided to grant him the title of Honoris Causa in 1987 in recognition of his many academic achievements.

This was delivered to him in December of that year, taking advantage of Milstein’s visit to the city. Years ago, rather when he received the highest award in Physiology or Medicine, the news reached the front page of The New Province, local newspaper.

Cesar Milstein Nobel Prize
La Nueva Provincia, a Bahía Blanco newspaper, reported the news of César Milstein’s achievement.
Cesar Milstein Nobel Prize
Milstein during his visit to his hometown, having received the title of Honoris Causa.

In 1993, He received the Konex Award for Brilliant together with René Favaloro for his legacy to Argentine Science and Technology. 9 years later, on March 24, 2002, died at age 74 in England and victim of a heart condition.

For his funeral they asked his relatives to send some words for the ceremony. His great-niece Ana Fraile, who would later become the director of the film about his life, chose the story by Eduardo Galeano “A Sea of ​​Fires”.

Until today, Argentina reaped two Nobel Peace Prizes (Carlos Saavedra Lamas in 1936 and Adolfo Pérez Esquivel in 1980) and three scientists (Bernardo Houssay in 1947, Luis Federico Leloir in 1970 and César Milstein in 1984).

Milstein Nobel Prize
Together with René Favaloro, the Doctor in Chemistry was awarded the Konex Prize.
Milstein Nobel Prize
The year 2021 was declared as a tribute to César Milstein.

At the beginning of 2021, the national government declared that year as a tribute to Cesar Milstein, in recognition of its “deep commitment to science” and for promoting “universal access and availability of knowledge for the benefit of society.”

In the recitals, it mentions that This year marks the 60th anniversary of Milstein’s return to Argentina, when he was appointed Head of the Molecular Biology Department of the Carlos Malbrán National Institute of Microbiology.

Under the same framework, he stressed that “Dr. César Milstein’s legacy transcended the borders of the country, and his discovery of monoclonal antibodies set a milestone in the history of medicine and influenced various specialties”.


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37 years ago, César Milstein received the Nobel Prize in Medicine, the last Argentine to achieve it

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