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MedUni Vienna mourns the loss of Otto Majdic

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Otto Majdic - Pioneer and Master of Monoclonal Antibodies (1952 - 2018)


Modesty and restraint were the life motifs of Ass. Prof. Dr. Otto Majdic that is why many do not any longer know that he is the pioneer of monoclonal antibodies in Austria.

The passion for nature set him at birth in Eisenkappel, Kärnten, in the cradle. Already as a boy, he began to breed animals, especially birds, and to collect different plants. But it was not only the love for nature it was the devotion, which is why everything in his hands grew and prospered, and the study of biology was therefore the logical consequence.

It is crucial in life to be at a given time at the right place. For Otto this was 40 years ago in the year 1978 the encounter with Univ.-Prof Dr. Walter Knapp, who was looking for a skilled biologist to set up at the Institute of Immunology at the then University of Vienna the famous hybridoma technology described in 1975 by Köhler and Milstein and awarded 1984 with the Nobel-Prize for the production of monoclonal antibodies. The hybridoma cells literally exploded in the hands of Otto and I don't know anyone who made more monoclonal antibodies as he. Legendary antibodies are for instance the CD15 monoclonal antibody VIM-D5 and the CD65 monoclonal antibody VIM-2, the first tools in 1980 to recognise myeloid blood cells. This succeeded for the first time to diagnose and differentiate between myeloid and lymphatic leukemias, the basis for the life-saving therapy. Also his monoclonal antibodies were among the first to be used therapeutically, such as the CD4 monoclonal antibody VIT-4 to temporarily eliminate T cells in transplantation or the monoclonal antibody cocktail consisting of the CD10 antibody VIL-A1 and the CD24 antibodies VIB-C5 and VIB-E3, to purge bone marrow from acute lymphatic leukaemia cells.

Otto's monoclonal antibodies closed many gaps in understanding the development and differentiation of immune and blood cells. His more than 500 monoclonal antibodies are described in more than 200 publications, which have been cited over 10,000 times and awarded Otto an h-factor of over 60. He reinforced this high international prestige and visibility through the free distribution of his monoclonal antibodies to the international research community worldwide: each scientist and researcher, who asked him, got free samples. Therefore, Otto is without any doubt pioneer and promoter of modern immunology, and ultimately he served the Austrian Society for Allergology and Immunology also as the Deputy Secretary from 1984-1988.

He donated most of his energy and force to his monoclonal antibodies and thereby forgot that his own body needs for the defence energy and antibodies. This is why he with early 66 age lost on February 9, 2018, the defence against infection. Through his faith and its relation to nature, he saw the death not as definitive, but as part of a closed cycle, which does not release anything. This along with his work and his expertise maintain the memorial to his personality.

Hannes Stockinger
Head of organization unit  Center for Pathophysiology, Infectiology and Immunology