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Irwin H. Lepow was the sixty-third president of the American Association of Immunologists, serving from 1979 to 1980. An able administrator as well as a meticulous researcher, Lepow held several key posts in both academia and industry over the course of his career, including positions at Western Reserve University, the University of Connecticut Health Center, and the Sterling-Winthrop Research Institute. Lepow made several fundamental contributions to our understanding of the complement system, including purifying and characterizing C1 and identifying its subcomponents, C1q, C1r, and C1s.
As a chemist at Lederle Laboratories in the 1940s, Lepow worked on purifying pertussis antigen and diphtheria and tetanus toxoids. His research brought him into contact with Louis Pillemer (AAI ’42), who convinced Lepow to pursue graduate studies in immunochemistry in his laboratory at Western Reserve University. Lepow received his Ph.D. in 1951 and remained at Western Reserve as senior instructor of biochemistry (1951–1952) and assistant professor (1952–1959) of biochemistry and experimental pathology. During these years he also took classes at the Western Reserve School of Medicine, earning his M.D. in 1958. He was promoted to associate professor of experimental pathology in 1959 and became professor of medicine shortly before leaving Western Reserve in 1967 for the new University of Connecticut Health Center in Farmington, where he was professor and the first head of the Department of Pathology (1967–1973) and head of the Department of Medicine (1973–1978). In 1978, Lepow returned to industry, becoming president of the Sterling-Winthrop Research Institute in Rensselaer, New York, as well as vice president for research of the institute’s parent pharmaceutical company, Sterling Drug. He held these positions until his death, at the age of 62, on September 13, 1984.
Vice President: 1978–1979
The Journal of Immunology
Section Editor: 1972 (immunopathology)
Associate Editor: 1972–1973
Ad hoc Committee on Public Relations: 1972–1973 (chair)
Blue Ribbon Panel: 1978–1979
Finance Committee: 1981–1984 (co-chair)
AAI IUIS Advisory Committee: 1974–1977
AAI Representative to National Research Council: 1976–1978
AAI Delegate to IUIS Assembly: 1977–1982
AAI Representative to IUIS Council: 1977–1980
AAI Representative to FASEB Board: 1978–1981
AAI Representative to FASEB Executive Committee: 1978–1981
"Louis Pillemer, Properdin, and Scientific Controversy," Delivered April 16, 1980
The Journal of Immunology 125, no. 2 (1980): 471–75.