PITTSBURGH, July 5, 1996 — In recognition of his seminal contributions to the field of organ transplantation, the program that Thomas E. Starzl, M.D., Ph.D., established at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC) in 1981 now bears his name. Formerly known as the Pittsburgh Transplantation Institute, which for the past six years has encompassed both research and clinical services, the institute has been renamed the Thomas E. Starzl Transplantation Institute. Dr. Starzl continues as its director, devoting his full attention to research.
"It is only fitting that Dr. Starzl's contributions are acknowledged in this way. No one has gained more respect in this field than this great clinician and scientist. His vision and leadership are gifts to us all," says Thomas Detre, M.D., senior vice chancellor for Health Sciences.
"Dr. Starzl played a major role in bringing transplantation from concept to reality. His work here has brought and continues to bring international recognition to the UPMC and the city of Pittsburgh," adds colleague John J. Fung, M.D., Ph.D., chief of the division of transplant surgery and associate director of the Starzl Institute.
The institute's name change, which became effective July 1, is part of a larger effort to create an endowment honoring Dr. Starzl that will ensure the institute's long-term fiscal security. The first phase of this effort created an endowed chair in transplant surgery in the School of Medicine; the Thomas E. Starzl Professorship was established in March of this year, in large part through the support of Dr. Starzl's former patients and current colleagues. Dr. Starzl, who is a professor of surgery, will not hold the endowed professorship.
Dr. Starzl performed the world's first liver transplant in 1963 at the University of Colorado. Among his more than 30 years of contributions is the development of the drug cocktail that included cyclosporine, which transformed transplantation from an experimental procedure to an accepted form of treatment for end-stage diseases of the liver, kidney and heart. In 1989, he and his team announced their development of an even more effective drug therapy to prevent rejection of transplanted organs. This drug, FK506, won U.S. Food and Drug Administration approval in April 1994 and is now marketed as Prograf.
In addition to the research and clinical advancements he has made with cross-species, cellular and multiple-organ transplantation, Dr. Starzl's more recent contributions to transplant science have significantly enhanced the understanding of transplant immunology, particularly with respect to how and why organs are accepted.
Under Dr. Starzl's leadership, the UPMC's transplant program has emerged as the world's largest, where more transplants and types of transplants are performed, and is considered a center of excellence for transplantation research.
A formal dedication ceremony for the Thomas E. Starzl Institute will take place in September.