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 Judah Folkman, BA, MD

Commencement Honorary Degree Recipient folkman Dr. Judah Folkman is recognized by many as the father of angiogenesis – the formation of tiny blood vessels – a key step in cancer growth and metastasis. Over 30 years ago, Dr. Folkman theorized that solid tumors are angiogenesis-dependent – dependent on new blood vessel growth – and predicted the existence of natural angiogenesis inhibitors. Dr. Folkman and his colleagues went on to purify the first of 14 angiogenic molecules and he discovered the first natural angiogenesis inhibitor as well as two other families of inhibitor molecules. Today, these discoveries are being evaluated in several active clinical trials for patients with cancer.

While it is Dr. Folkman’s angiogenesis research which may well immortalize him, it should be noted that he also created the first implantable heart pacemaker and the first implantable drug-delivery capsule. At 34, he became the youngest chief of surgery at Boston’s Children’s Hospital as well as the youngest professor of surgery at Harvard. Dr. Folkman is known not only as a visionary researcher, but also as a humane and dedicated practicing surgeon.

Dr. Folkman received a B.A. from Ohio State University in 1953 and an M.D. from Harvard Medical School. Dr. Folkman’s contributions and extraordinary achievements have been recognized worldwide with over 100 awards and honors, including a 10 year MERIT Award from the National Cancer Institute in 1989, election to the National Academy of Sciences in 1990, the Gairdner Foundation Award in 1991, the Bristol-Myers Squibb Award for Distinguished Achievement in Cancer Research in 1995, and the Charles S. Mott Prize from the General Motors Cancer Research Foundation in 1997. Dr. Folkman is currently the Julia Dyckman Andrus Professor of Pediatric Surgery at Harvard Medical School.