All of us at Anthony Nolan are incredibly saddened to hear the news that Professor Jon van Rood has passed away, at the age of 91.
Professor van Rood had an extraordinary life – and he played an enormous part in establishing stem cell transplants as a lifesaving procedure across the face of the globe.
As a teenager, he lived through the German occupation of the Netherlands during WWII. After being imprisoned twice by German troops, he found himself hiding in a cold, poorly-lit cellar – at one point eating daffodil bulbs as his only source of food.
In spite of it all, he completed his medical studies at the University of Leiden, and embarked on an incredible career.
In the 1950s, in parallel with Rose Payne and the Nobel Prize-winning Jean Dausset, Professor van Rood discovered HLA antigens – the vital component of a ‘match’ between donor and patient.
As a result, stem cell transplants began to take place across the world, and stem cell donor registries began to form – the first of which was created by our founder, Shirley Nolan, in the hope of finding a donor for her son Anthony.
It was Professor van Rood who understood that these national registries needed to work together, globally, to save as many lives as possible.
In the 1980s, Bone Marrow Donors Worldwide was formed – with Anthony Nolan as a founding member.
Today, registries from 53 countries work together to find lifesaving matches, with the help of over 29.5 million heroic donors signed up worldwide.
That’s an astonishing achievement, and we pay tribute to Professor van Rood for his founding role in the field.
He’ll be sorely missed.