Obit: Baruj Benacerraf, Nobel-winning immunologist, dies at 90

Baruj Benacerraf, a Venezuela-born immunologist who shared the 1980 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine, died Aug. 2 of pneumonia at his Boston home, his family said. He was 90.

Benacerraf’s wife, Annette Dreyfus, died in June.

Benacerraf was born in Caracas, Venezuela, to Sephardic Jewish parents and moved to Paris with his family in 1925. In an autobiography he wrote for the Nobel organization, Benacerraf said that “My primary and secondary education was in French, which had a lasting influence on my life.”

The family fled France at the beginning of World War II, and Benacerraf went on to earn a bachelor’s degree at Columbia University in 1942 and a medical degree from the Medical College of Virginia. He was rejected by top U.S. medical schools because of their quota systems against Jews, but later served on the faculty of two of them.

He gained attention after he discovered that genetic factors played a central role in the function of the immune system. That finding led to a 1980 Nobel Prize for him and colleagues Jean Dausset of Université de Paris and George Snell of Jackson Laboratory in Bar Harbor, Maine.

For a time, he also led the Boston-based Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. — ap & jta