Dr. Judah Folkman (February 24, 1933 – January 14, 2008) is best known the founder of the field of research on angiogenesis, or the formation of new blood vessels. He initially began studying blood vessel growth as a lieutenant in the United States Navy at the National Naval Medical Center in 1960. Through these studies he came up with a possible cure for cancer – cutting off tumors from the blood supply they need to grow. Folkman’s idea eventually led to the successful cancer drug Avastin, approved in 2004.
Folkman was born in Cleveland, Ohio in 1933. He decided to become a doctor at the young age of 7, after visiting hospital patients with his father, a rabbi. He earned his bachelor’s degree from Ohio State University in 1953, and a medical degree from Harvard Medical School in 1957, where he had invented one of the first pacemakers. He continued his work on pacemakers in his surgical residency at Massachusetts General Hospital, where he eventually became Chief Resident in surgery. In 1968 he became the youngest full Professor at Harvard Medical School in history; his departments were Pediatric Surgery and Cell Biology.
Folkman received many honors and awards for his work, including the George Ledlie Prize from Harvard, Israel’s Wolf Prize in 1992, Switzerland’s Dr. Josef Steiner Cancer Research Award, and the 2007 Hope Funds Award of Excellence in Basic Research. In 2006 he was appointed to the National Cancer Advisory Board of the National Institutes of Health by President Bush.
At the time of his death Folkman was director of the vascular biology program at Children’s Hospital Boston, where he had been for nearly forty years. He leaves behind his wife, two daughters, and one granddaughter.