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Robert J. Seiwald

Isothiocyanate Compounds for Antigen Identification

U.S. Patent No. 2,937,186
Inducted in 1995
Born March 26, 1925
Military Service: U.S. Army

Robert Seiwald and Joseph Burckhalter worked together to patent fluorescein isothiocyanate and rhodamine isothiocyanate, better known as FITC and RITC, at the University of Kansas in 1960. FITC was the first useful antibody labeling agent, and it is now used for quickly and efficiently identifying infectious diseases.

Prior to Seiwald and Burckhalter's work, the labeling idea for identifying diseases was introduced in 1941. It proved to be potentially useful but difficult to implement. Since its synthesis, FITC has proved infallible in diagnosing a great number of diseases. These include malaria, Legionnaire's disease, and differentiating between cancerous and noncancerous lesions of plasma cells. It also paved the way for the development of other labeling procedures, such as radioimmunoassay and enzyme-linked immosorbent assay (ELISA).

Born in Fort Morgan, Colorado, Seiwald served in World War II; he earned his B.S. in chemistry from the University of San Francisco and then his Ph.D. in organic chemistry from St. Louis University in 1954. Later that year he joined Burckhalter at the University of Kansas, where they worked on FITC and RITC. He was professor of organic chemistry at the University of San Francisco from 1957 until he retired in 1989.

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