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Biochem prof Goldwasser dies at 88

Eugene Goldwasser (BA '43, Ph.D. '50) was the first to isolate erythoproietin, which has been used to treat anemia.

Photo: Maroon Staff/The Chicago Maroon
Eugene Goldwasser, former professor of Biochemistry and Molecular Biophysics at the UofC, passed away last Friday. Goldwasser was known as the "father of EPO," a drug which enabled anemic patients and those undergoing dialysis to live longer and more productive lives.

Professor Emeritus of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology Eugene Goldwasser (BA ’43, Ph.D. ’50) died in his Hyde Park home on December 17 from kidney failure associated with prostate cancer. He was 88 years old.

Goldwasser was also known as the “Father of EPO” for isolating and purifying the hormone erythoproietin (EPO), which is used to treat anemia.

Goldwasser shared the protein hormone, which is instrumental to producing red blood cells, with a bioengineering firm that used it to produce a drug to treat anemia.

Goldwasser began his research on EPO at the request of his mentor, hematologist Dr. Leon Jacobson. A project he estimated would last several months turned into a 20-year pursuit.

“He was the type of guy who was committed to a goal. It was a very difficult thing, and he didn’t have much funding for it, and people didn’t think it could be done, but he stuck with it and got it done,” chairman of the biochemistry and molecular biology department Anthony Kossiakoff said.

Goldwasser served as chair of the department of biochemistry and molecular biology from 1984-1985. Despite retiring in 1987, he acted again as chair from 1994–1998 and as the chair of the Committee on Developmental Biology from 1976–1991 before retiring again in 2002.

“He had an enormous attachment to the University,” Jackman said. “He found intellectual stimulation among his peers and  wonderful support in terms of his work. He was also a man who was enormously loyal.”

Goldwasser lived with stage-IV prostate cancer for 25 years, but he continued to be active in lab until he retired in 2002. “He was always the scientist. He was always observing the biological processes, including his own illness,” Goldwasser's wife Deone Jackman said.

A memorial service will be held at Rockefeller Memorial Chapel on January 24.

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