Theodore Zimmerman, Developer of Blood Coagulant, Dies at 51
Theodore S. Zimmerman, a research scientist at Scripps Clinic & Research Foundation who co-invented the first pure form of the blood coagulant, Factor VIII, a product that gives hemophiliacs protection from AIDS-contaminated blood plasma, died Monday of lung cancer at Scripps Clinic. He was 51.
A St. Louis native and graduate of Harvard Medical School, Zimmerman spent most of his professional life studying blood. He was an internationally recognized authority on Von Willebrand’s disease, a bleeding disorder similar to hemophilia in that the blood’s platelets are unable to seal holes in broken blood vessels.
His knowledge of the Von Willebrand “factor,” its role in the blood-clotting process and the discovery that it was carried in the same molecule as Factor VIII, the clotting factor deficient in hemophiliacs, enabled Zimmerman and Scripps colleague Carol Fulcher to develop a patented process to extract pure Factor VIII from blood plasma.
The extract was named Monoclate and is licensed by Scripps to the Rorer Group pharmaceutical company. After extensive clinical tests, Rorer began marketing the product to the nation’s 20,000 hemophiliacs in November, 1987.
Monoclate became the first clotting factor that gave hemophiliacs absolute safety from exposure to AIDS, hepatitis and other microorganisms in contaminated blood plasma. In 1982, before Monoclate was available, about 95% of the hemophiliacs in the country tested positive for exposure to the AIDS virus.
For Monoclate and his other work, Zimmerman earlier this month received the Dameshek Prize, the highest research honor given by the American Society of Hematology. In 1986, Zimmerman was one of the first recipients of the National Institute of Health’s Merit Award, a 10-year, $1.8 million research grant.
In an August interview, Zimmerman credited the NIH’s grant program for making the discovery of Monoclate possible. Zimmerman’s 20 years of research into blood diseases was financed by more than $1 million in NIH grants.
Zimmerman had been on the Scripps Clinic & Research Foundation faculty since 1970 and at his death was head of the division of experimental hemostasis. In recent years, Zimmerman led research on technology to prevent thrombosis, the formation of blood clots within blood vessels that often cause strokes and phlebitis.
“We are all very much saddened by the loss of a talented colleague, a leader and a rising star in biomedical research,” said Dr. Ernest Beutler, chairman of the Department of Basic and Clinical Research at Scripps Clinic.
Zimmerman lived in La Jolla. He is survived by his wife, Frances, and their two daughters, Grace Anne and Clare Elizabeth; his mother, Rose Zimmerman, and brother, Carl Zimmerman, both of St. Louis, and sister Ellen Zimmerman of New York. Besides his medical degree, Zimmerman was a Phi Beta Kappa undergraduate at Harvard.
A memorial service for Zimmerman is scheduled Dec. 29 at 10 a.m. in the medical library at Scripps Clinic & Research Foundation.