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Plenary session tribute to Professor Denis A Mitchison

26 Oct 2018

At the start of the second Plenary session at the 49th Union World Conference on Lung Health delegates took a moment to remember one of the great pioneers of tuberculosis research, Professor Denis Mitchison.

In a tribute from Professor Andrew Nunn, Honorary Member of The Union, the audience heard about Denis Mitchison’s distinguished career in tuberculosis research, which began with his pioneering studies on anti-tuberculosis chemotherapy more than half a century ago.

Professor Nunn spoke about some of Professor Mitchison’s career highlights and his profound role in the development of TB medicine. Prof Mitchison had written over 250 scientific papers and was responsible for the design of ground breaking randomised trials – the first major studies of home care.

In 1956 Denis set up a laboratory at the WHO Tuberculosis Chemotherapy Centre in Madras, where he continued as an advisor throughout his career.

From 1964 until 1985 Denis was Director of the Medical Research Council Unit for Research on Drug Sensitivity in Tuberculosis at the Royal Postgraduate Medical School in Hammersmith (now Imperial College). During this time the laboratory was responsible for processing tens of thousands of specimens.

In the final stages of his career Denis relocated to St George’s University of London where he continued to work until 2015.

During the tribute Prof Nunn spoke of the work Prof Mitchison did in collaboration with Wallace Fox, Director of the Medical Research Council (MRC) saying “Denny Mitchison and Wallace Fox brought about a revolution in the treatment of TB leading to the world-wide introduction of short-course chemotherapy.”

John L. Johnson, M.D., Professor of Medicine at Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine paid tribute, saying, “Denny was a giant. His, and Wallace Fox’s, brilliant work in advancing the chemotherapy of TB saved millions of lives.”

Philip Butcher, Professor of Molecular Medical Microbiology at St George’s University, London said, “The legacy of his intellectual contributions still percolates many areas of TB research and clinical practice and will influence our current and future studies on TB. One can only say this about the work of truly great scientists and Professor Mitchison is up there amongst the greats.”

Dr Mitchision’s work has contributed to the saving of millions of lives around the world, and continues to have impact on the lives of people living with TB today. He will be greatly missed.

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