Friday, 1 January 2010

Dr Josiah Francis Wedgwood (1950-2009)

I have just read the very sad news that Dr Josiah Francis Wedgwood passed away on November 27th. I corresponded with Dr Wedgwood last year during the fight for control of Josiah Wedgwood & Sons - you may remember I highlighted a letter he had written to the Financial Times on the matter.

The following obituary was published in The Times:

Dr Josiah Francis Wedgwood was a key figure in the US National Institutes of Healths’ (NIH) studies on diseases of the immune system.

He was the chief of the immunodeficiency and immunopathology section at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID). He championed the growth of research on primary immunodeficiency diseases (PID) and autoimmunity.

He was also the driving force behind the establishment of USIDNET, a consortium of PID researchers in the US, and pioneered a paradigm shift in funding of clinical research on PID, including the award of grants that led to the discovery of novel genes involved in PID.

He supported strategies to optimise the success of stem cell transplantation and gene therapy for PID and championed the establishment of an NIH registry for patients with PID and a repository of cell lines, tissue and DNA derived from PID patients that is now available to researchers worldwide.

He was in addition a tireless advocate for trainees and nurtured the steady growth of the PID research community through new training programmes.

He was also a key player in NIAID’s programme on autoimmune disease. He was instrumental in the renewal and expansion of the NIAID autoimmunity centres of excellence to include nine academic centres.

He was involved in the design and support of numerous early phase studies of novel therapeutics in diseases such as multiple sclerosis, autoimmune diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, systemic lupus erythematosus, pemphigus vulgaris, and Sjogren’s syndrome. The therapeutic agents under investigation ranged from marketed drugs and biologics to vitamins and novel compounds still in development.

Wedgwood was masterful in bringing together the multidisciplinary teams required to design, implement and conduct such studies. As chair of the trans-NIH Autoimmune Diseases Co-ordinating Committee, he worked closely with representatives of more than 30 federal agencies, private research foundations and patient advocacy groups.

Josiah Francis Wedgwood was born in 1950. He was a direct descendant of the 18th-century founder of the Wedgwood pottery company that introduced black basalt, Jasperware, and bone china to the English trade from 1754. His grandfather, Josiah Wedgwood, directed the firm from 1930 to 1968. His great-grandfather, Josiah Clement Wedgwood, was a Labour MP and a noted parliamentary gadfly, supporting Winston Churchill in sounding the alarm about Nazi aggression and urging that Western countries provide a refuge for Jews fleeing Europe.

The US branch of the Wedgwood family dates to the Second World War. Josiah Clement Wedgwood was targeted for arrest in the event of a Nazi invasion of England, so he sent his children to be educated in the US.

Josiah Francis Wedgwood graduated magna cum laude from Harvard, where he took his PhD in biochemistry in 1978 for studies on the role of phosphorus in cell membrane transport. He received his MD in 1980 from George Washington University Medical School. He then served on the academic faculties of the Mount Sinai Medical Centre in New York and the Yale School of Medicine.

He was board-certified in paediatrics, paediatric immunology and infectious diseases, neonatology and perinatology. He was a member of the American Academy of Paediatrics and received the academy’s Basil O’Connor award. He was the primary author of numerous articles in medical journals and chapters on neonatology, immunology and paediatric infectious diseases.

Wedgwood is survived by his wife of 27 years, Ruth Wedgwood, the Burling Professor of International Law at the John Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies in Washington, and the US member of the UN Human Rights Committee, and by their son. The immediate cause of his death was given as cardiovascular collapse.

Dr Josiah Francis Wedgwood, physician and expert on diseases of the immune system, was born on February 1, 1950. He died on November 27, 2009, aged 59