Cesar Milstein Quotes
César Milstein, CH, FRS (8 October 1927 – 24 March 2002) was an Argentinian biochemist in the field of antibody research. Milstein shared the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1984 with Niels Kaj Jerne and Georges J. F. Köhler.
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I wasn't a particularly brilliant student, but on the other hand, I was very active in Student Union affairs and in student politics.
As we returned to Argentina, I started seriously to work towards a doctoral degree under the direction of Professor Stoppani, the Professor of Biochemistry at the Medical School.
My thesis was on kinetics studies with the enzyme aldehyde dehydrogenase. When that was finished, I was granted a British Council Fellowship to work under the supervision of Malcolm Dixon.
Back in 1962, when I had by accident become the supervisor of Roberto Celis in Argentina, it occurred to me that antibody diversity might arise from the joining by disulphide bridges of a variety of small polypeptides in combinatorial patterns.
I learned what research was all about as a research student [with] Stoppani ... Max Perutz, and ... Fred Sanger... From them, I always received an unspoken message which in my imagination I translated as "Do good experiments, and don't worry about the rest."
The study of the amino acid sequence around the disulphide bonds of the immunoglobulins was my own short-cut to the understanding of antibody diversity.
We are at the beginning of a new era of immunochemistry, namely the production of "antibody based" molecules.
What attracted me to immunology was that the whole thing seemed to revolve around a very simple experiment: take two different antibody molecules and compare their primary sequences. The secret of antibody diversity would emerge from that. Fortunately at the time I was sufficiently ignorant of the subject not to realise how naive I was being.
When an animal is infected, either naturally or by experimental injection, with a bacterium, virus, or other foreign body, the animal recognises this as an invader and acts in such a way as to remove or destroy it.
Although the way ahead [for immunology] is full of pitfalls and difficulties, this is indeed an exhilarating prospect. There is no danger of a shortage of forthcoming excitement in the subject. Yet, as always, the highlights of tomorrow are the unpredictabilities of today.
The hybridoma technology was a by-product of basic research. Its success in practical applications is to a large extent the result of unexpected and unpredictable properties of the method. It thus represents another clear-cut example of the enormous practical impact of an investment in research which might not have been considered commercially worthwhile, or of immediate medical relevance. It resulted from esoteric speculations, for curiosity's sake, only motivated by a desire to understand nature.
And yet in a funny way our lack of success led to our breakthrough; because, since we could not get a cell line off the shelf doing what we wanted, we were forced to construct it. And the original experiment ... developed into a method for the production of hybridomas ... [which] was of more importance than our original purpose.