Russell-Winn Laboratory 1968
Dr. Sachs graduated summa cum laude in chemistry from Harvard College in 1963, following which he studied organic chemistry as a Fulbright Fellow in Paris, receiving a D.E.S. from the University of Paris in 1964. He then returned to Boston to enter Harvard Medical School, where he earned his M.D., magna cum laude, in 1968. During medical school, he became fascinated with the newly developing field of transplantation, particularly with the concept of transplantation tolerance, shown a decade earlier by Sir Peter Medawar and colleagues, to be inducible in mice by exposure to foreign cells very early in life. If similar tolerance could be induced in adults, patients might eventually be able to accept transplanted organs without long-term immunosuppression. In hopes of studying this problem further, he approached Dr. Paul S. Russell at the Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) to request a position in his laboratory as a student research assistant. This was the beginning of a long career in the field of transplantation tolerance — and also of his long and continuing association with Dr. Russell, and with the MGH.
with Paul Russell, Ben Cosimi & Emil Skamene (1970)
With the intent of becoming a transplant surgeon, as well as continuing his research career in this field, Dr. Sachs entered the surgical residency at MGH in 1968. He took a two-year leave of absence from that residency in 1970 to join the Public Health Service as a clinical research fellow at the NIH. A series of discoveries and promotions led to prolongation of that leave of absence for 21 years, during which time he became Chief of the Immunology Branch and developed a major program in transplantation research. In 1991, he returned to Boston as the Paul S. Russell Professor of Surgery and Immunology at Harvard Medical School and as the first Director of the Transplantation Biology Research Center at MGH, where he has continued to work until the present.
During his career, Dr. Sachs has trained more than 80 pre-doctoral and postdoctoral fellows, many of whom have gone on to outstanding careers as transplantation physicians and scientists. He has published over 700 scientific articles. He has served The Transplantation Society in the office of Vice President and as a Councilor for a total of 16 years during his career, and is a member of numerous other societies, including, the AST, the ASTS and the IXA. He was the Founding Editor and Editor-in-Chief of Xenotransplantation from 1994 to 1997 and has been one of the three North American Editors of Transplantation since 1997. He was elected to the Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences in 1996 and has received numerous other honors and awards, including the 2012 Starzl Prize, which he shared with his close colleague and friend, Dr. Ben Cosimi.
TBRC yearly lab photo (2009)
with Ben Cosimi and Tom Starzl at Starzl Prize award ceremony (2012)
Induction of transplantation tolerance through mixed chimerism: Dr. Sachs and his colleagues demonstrated in the late 1980's, that the survival of a small percentage of MHC-mismatched donor cells following bone marrow transplantation was sufficient to induce tolerance without the complications associated with complete marrow replacement. Since the original description of this phenomenon, called "mixed chimerism", in mice, pioneering studies have extended this work to large animals and most recently to clinical applications, including the first successful clinical protocol for the induction of transplantation tolerance across HLA barriers in patients receiving renal transplants.
with wife, Kristina, at Rome Congress (2000)
Discovery of class II antigens: In 1973, Dr. Sachs was the first to report the serologic detection of cell surface antigens determined by genes in the mouse MHC that were expressed predominantly on B cells and which subsequently became known as class II antigens.
with genetically engineered pigs at breeding facility
Development of miniature swine as a large animal transplantation model: More than 40 years ago, Dr. Sachs recognized the need for a large animal model for studies of transplantation and chose miniature swine because of their appropriate size (comparable to humans), physiologic and immunologic similarity to humans, and their breeding characteristics. The latter have made possible the establishment of MHC-homozygous and recombinant lines, making miniature swine the only large animal model in which one can reproducibly study the effects of selective genetic differences within the MHC. In their role as a preclinical animal model, these animals have provided numerous insights for understanding tolerance and histocompatibility.
Xenotransplantation: Dr. Sachs and his colleagues have utilized modern genetic engineering techniques to develop one inbred subline of miniature swine as an exceptionally appropriate donor for organ xenografts to primates. In addition, they are at the forefront of extending transplantation tolerance induction to this field.
In a career now spanning more than four decades, Dr. Sachs has worked consistently at the interface between basic science and clinical applications in the field of transplantation. His accomplishments can be measured not only in terms of basic science and clinical achievements, but also in terms of scores of scientists and clinicians who have been inspired by his enthusiasm and devotion.
At 2012 celebration of 10th anniversary of the first successful tolerance transplant procedure, with several tolerant renal transplant patients
and members of the transplant team.
Dr. Sutherland started his research career in immunology under the mentorship of Dr. Robert A. Good at the University of Minnesota (UM) Medical School, and graduated in 1966. He then interned at West Virginia University, served two years in the United States Army, and completed his Surgery Residency and a Transplant Fellowship at the UM. In 1976, he joined the University Faculty, where he has spent his entire career. He received his PhD in 1977, was promoted to Professor of Surgery in 1984, and was Head of the Division of Transplantation from 1994 to 2009. He founded and has been the Director of the UM Diabetes Institute for Immunology and Transplantation since 1994, and is holder of the Dobbs Diabetes Research Chair.
As a transplant surgeon, Dr. Sutherland has trained numerous surgeons heading organ and pancreatic transplant programs worldwide and has overseen more than 2,000 pancreas transplants at the UM. He performed the world’s first clinical islet transplant in 1974 alongside his mentor Dr. John Najarian, and he developed minimally invasive beta cell replacement therapy as an alternative to insulin therapy on pancreas transplantation to treat diabetes. He also initiated preservation of beta cell mass by islet auto-transplantation at the time of total pancreatectomy for chronic pancreatitis in 1977, with nearly 435 such procedures completed to date. In 1980, Dr. Sutherland founded the International Pancreas Transplant Registry.
Dr. Sutherland has been of service for national and international organizations and societies, including serving as President of The Transplantation Society (2002-2004), the International Pancreas and Islet Transplant Association (1996-1997), the Cell Transplant Society (1994-1996), and the American Society of Transplant Surgeons (1990-1991). He has also served on the editorial boards of many journals, including Cell Transplantation, Diabetes, Transplantation, Transplantation Proceedings, and Pancreas. He has been Editor-in-Chief for Clinical Transplantation since January 2007.
Dr. Sutherland’s principle scientific achievement is his role as the major force in the development of beta-cell-replacement (BCR) for the treatment of diabetes. In the early 1970s, he began work on islet transplantation to make BCR minimally invasive. He recognized the long-term challenges, and simultaneously refined techniques of pancreas transplantation to avoid problems that plagued earlier series. In the late 1970s, he resurrected clinical pancreas transplantation at the University of Minnesota, while persevering with islet research.
In 1977, Dr. Sutherland showed that islet autografts could preserve insulin-secretion after total-pancreatectomy for chronic pancreatitis, establishing a new treatment for the disease, now proved metabolically durable. The first successful series of single-donor islet allografts occurred under his direction. In 1980, he established the International Pancreas and Islet Transplant Registry, one of the most useful registries ever, publishing outcome analyses for nearly 30 years.
The unique contributions that Dr. Sutherland has made to pancreas transplantation include the first living-donor segmental-graft (1979), aiming not simply to solve organ shortage but to decrease the rejection rate in the pre-calcineurin-inhibitor era. He also first described isletitis with selective beta-cell destruction and recurrence of diabetes in pancreas isografts (identical-twin donors) and allografts (1984), a linchpin in establishing the disease as autoimmune. Finally, more than anyone in the field, he emphasized pancreas-transplant-alone (PTA) in nonuremic patients whose diabetes was more severe than the side-effects of immunosuppression, comprising a quarter of the first 1,000 cases at the UM, a series now greater than 2,000. The field would not have developed as it did without Dr. Sutherland’s passion and numerous contributions.