The Podack Memorial Symposium honors an extraordinary individual who was Professor and Chair, Department of Microbiology and Immunology, Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center. Eckhard Podack, MD, PhD made several seminal discoveries in the fields of immunology and cancer. He was the first to discover that polymerization of C9 is the principal pore former of the membrane attack complex of complement (MAC). He demonstrated that C9 kills bacteria by making holes in their cell walls. As part of the MAC, polymerized C9 protein inserts itself into the lipid bilayer permeableizing cell membranes leading to bacterial cell death. This process physically destroys invading bacterial pathogens. These fundamental findings form one of the bedrock principles of modern day immunology and are presented in major immunology textbooks and classes around the world.
Dr. Podack was a visionary in translating his basic science findings into advanced clinical care. A prototype example of his approach is represented by his generation of a monoclonal antibody against CD30 during experiments to address Perforin-1-related questions in basic science experiments. He quickly appreciated the importance of CD30 for the potential application to CD30-positive tumors including Hodgkin’s lymphoma. This observation eventually resulted in a monoclonal antibody developed by Dr. Podack that was modified by Seattle Genetics to yield brentuximab vedotin (Adcetris), which is now front line therapy for patients with Hodgkin’s lymphoma.