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In 2020, the COVID-19 epidemic spread, and people all over the world spent this special and unforgettable year in anxiety. Too many lives have passed away. TheScientist magazine also records those researchers who have passed away this year to promote progress in the fields of molecular biology, virology, sleep science, and immunology. The scientific community bid farewell to these great scientific stars, but their work will bring light and hope to mankind…

Wendy Havran (1955–2020) 




Since 1991, immunologist Wendy Havran has been studying the role of γ-δ T cells in wound healing at the Scripps Institute. She died of a heart attack on January 20 at the age of 64.


Havran first became interested in immunology after meeting John Cambier, an immunologist at Duke University, where she completed her undergraduate degree. She originally planned to study medicine, but then she became obsessed with research. She said: “I seem to have a sense of clarity and will never regret it. I want to understand how the immune system works.”


During his PhD at the University of Chicago, Havran used monoclonal antibodies to study the CD4 and CD8 surface markers on T cells. Later, as a postdoctoral fellow at the University of California, Berkeley, Havran began to specialize in γ-δ T cells. She mapped the abundance of γ-δ T throughout the body, showing for the first time that they are common in the skin and intestines. In her own Scripps laboratory, Havran continues to prove that these cells have the ability to heal wounds and inhibit tumor growth.


Havran’s Scripps colleague Jamie Williamson said: “Wendy has not only made significant contributions in the fields of immunology and wound healing, but also inspired countless graduate students and postdoctoral fellows at the Scripps Institute through her enthusiastic guidance for nearly 30 years.”


Stanley Cohen (1922–2020)




Nobel Prize winner and biochemist Stanley Cohen led the groundbreaking research on cell growth factors. He died in February this year at the age of 97.


Lawrence Marnett, head of the Department of Basic Sciences at Vanderbilt University, where Cohen has taught for 40 years, said: “Stan’s research not only provides key insights into how cells grow, but also facilitates the development of many drugs for the treatment of cancer.”


Cohen and Italian biologist Rita Levi-Montalcini studied different types of growth factors, which won them the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1986. Cohen was honored for discovering epidermal growth factor (a protein that stimulates cell growth and differentiation and plays an important role in tumor development), while Levi-Montalcini was honored for isolating nerve growth factor for the first time. Growth factor receptors have become the target of many drugs, such as gefitinib and cetuximab, which can slow or prevent the progression of certain cancers.


Cohen’s colleagues recalled that he was always driven by curiosity and wanted to understand how everything works. Whenever he came up with an idea, he would personally conduct experiments to verify the idea. The concentration and perseverance of a gold digger made his life possible.


Philip Leder (1934–2020)




Philip Leder, a molecular geneticist at Harvard Medical School, died on February 2 at the age of 85. Philip Leder is highly respected for his work in molecular biology, immunology and cancer genetics.


In the 1960s, Leder worked as a postdoctoral fellow with Marshall Nirenberg, a geneticist at the National Institutes of Health, and developed a technique that confirmed for the first time that amino acids are encoded by three nucleotides. In an interview in 2012, he recalled the excitement of those early experiments, saying: “I will think about the next day’s experiment before going to bed, and then jump out of bed in the morning and rush to the laboratory. This is a difficult job, but the excitement of acquiring knowledge is immense.”


After revealing the genetic basis of protein coding, Leder went on to map the first complete sequence of mammalian genes, developed the first recombinant DNA vector system, and discovered an oncogene, which prompted the development of the first mouse Cancer model. In 1981, he established the Department of Genetics at Harvard Medical School and served as its chairman for 25 years.


Leder’s work at Harvard is not limited to his research. He has made fundamental reforms in hiring, searching for new assistant professors in the genetics department across the country, increasing the possibility of hiring women, and ensuring that the size of the department is not Will be too big. If the teachers are on different floors, Leder insists on connecting the floors with spiral staircases (rather than monotonous stairwells), making it easy for researchers to communicate and collaborate. George Daley, Dean of Harvard Medical School, said that Leder’s contribution to science and Harvard Medical School should not be underestimated and will never be forgotten by him.


James Taylor (1979–2020)




Computational biologist James Taylor developed a widely used bioinformatics platform. He died in April at the age of 40.


“James has made a great contribution to open source, accessibility, and reproducibility,” geneticist Andrew Carroll wrote on Twitter after James died. “Thanks to James’ work, any bioinformatics tool running in the cloud Anyone can do this.”


While studying for his PhD at Pennsylvania State University, Taylor helped develop the Galaxy Project, a platform that allows researchers to share genomic data without knowing how to program. During his tenure from Emory University to Johns Hopkins University, he continued to improve this platform, and since then, Galaxy has been used in more than 10,000 publications in different disciplines. Taylor said on Twitter before his death that it is necessary to establish a transparent, reusable and reproducible analysis pipeline, and to respond to the current epidemic by developing best practice resources for sharing and analyzing data.


Michael Schatz, associate professor of computer science and biology at Hopkins University, said in Taylor’s memoirs, “His lifelong pursuit is to understand how genomic information is used for normal development and how changes in the genome are dysregulated in disease. In addition, By co-leading the Galaxy project and the Anvil project, a major goal of James’ career is to support the work of other scientists, especially to enhance the capabilities of those with limited resources.”


William Dement (1928–2020)




William Dement, a pioneer in sleep science and sleep medicine and the founding chairman of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, passed away in June this year at the age of 91.


In the 1950s, Dement studied the physiology of rapid eye movement sleep and its relationship with dreaming during his graduate studies at the University of Chicago. The discovery of rapid eye movement sleep provides a physiological basis for dreaming and opens the door for scientific research on sleep. He later taught at Stanford University for 50 years. There, he focused on studying the effects of sleep apnea and sleep deprivation. In 1970, he founded the Stanford Sleep Medicine Center. Thanks to this, the US Congress established the National Center for Sleep Disorder Research.


Dr. Kannan Ramar, President of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, said: “Dr. Dement’s contribution to the field of sleep medicine cannot be overstated. Dr. Dement not only contributed groundbreaking research and practical experience, but also served as the founder and Chairman for 12 years, he laid the foundation for the sleep medicine community and all the achievements we have made and will make. He will be remembered for us.”


Huang Yijing (1946–2020)




Chinese-American molecular biologist Flossie Wong-Staal is known for co-discovering and first cloning the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) that causes AIDS. She died of complications from pneumonia (non-COVID-19) on July 8, 2020, at the age of 73.


In 1973, when Huang Yijing entered the laboratory of fellow virologist Robert Gallo for the first time as a postdoctoral fellow, scientists were skeptical that retroviruses might cause cancer in humans. Huang Yijing and her team identified the first human retrovirus HTLV-1 and proved that it may indeed cause cancer. This work helped to overturn this dogma. In 20 years, she and Gallo have published more than 100 papers.


In the 1980s, the number of AIDS cases began to surge. In 1989, Huang Yijing became the world’s first scientist to decipher the structure of the AIDS virus DNA, opening up a new path for the development of an AIDS vaccine, namely the use of gene therapy to treat AIDS.


In 1990, she left Gallo’s laboratory at the National Cancer Institute and established the AIDS Research Center at the University of California, San Diego, where she spent decades researching HIV and developing treatments, many of which are still In use.


Noel Rose (1927–2020)




The early experiments of immunologist and microbiologist Noel Rose established the concept of autoimmunity. He died of a stroke on July 30 at the age of 92.


Before his pioneering work, the mainstream view was that the human body could not produce an immune response to itself. But at the time, as a young medical student at Buffalo University, Rose pointed out that rabbits injected with their own thyroid-derived antigens will produce an immune response that destroys their thyroid.


In the following decades, he further revealed the etiology and mechanism of autoimmune diseases, and wrote more than 800 papers and monograph chapters in the field of immunology.


Rose once called autoimmune diseases, cancer, and heart disease as the three major diseases. So far, scientists have confirmed more than 80 autoimmune diseases, including lupus erythematosus, type I diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis and so on. His work in the field of autoimmunity has opened up the direction of clinical treatment for related diseases. Until his death, the 92-year-old was still using a large database of patient data to find out why people are suffering from certain autoimmune diseases and what methods are best for preventing and treating these diseases.


Said George Tsokos, professor of rheumatology at Harvard Medical School. “In every way, Rose can be called the father of autoimmunity. He opened a whole new chapter in medicine.”


Angelika Amon (1967–2020)




On October 29, MIT cell biologist Angelika Amon died of ovarian cancer at the age of 53.


Amon is dedicated to studying the cell cycle and how the disruption of the normal function of the cell cycle leads to cancer. During his Ph.D. at the University of Vienna and later as a postdoctoral fellow at MIT’s Koch Comprehensive Cancer Research, Amon used model organisms such as yeast and fruit flies to study how certain proteins and enzymes direct cell mitosis.


Later, Amon turned his attention to the study of chromosome aneuploidy, number abnormality and separation. It turns out that additional chromosomes can disrupt protein folding and cell metabolism, and errors in these processes can often lead to cancer. It is precisely because of Amon’s research that opens the door to the field of cancer biology.

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