News & Awards

Mathew Thakur, Ph.D. receives the Georg de Hevesy Award

On June 4th, 2000 in the plenary session of the 47th Annual Meeting of the Society of Nuclear Medicine in St. Louis, Mathew Thakur was bestowed with the Society’s highest honor, the Georg de Hevesy Award for “Outstanding Contribution to the Field of Nuclear Medicine”. The Georg Charles de Hevesy Nuclear Pioneer Award is named after Dr. de Hevesy, the author of several papers and books on radiochemistry. The major thrust of Dr. de Hevesy’s work during 1920-1966 was in determination of pharmacokinetics and metabolism of radioactive compounds that led to the foundation of nuclear medicine as a modality for diagnosis and therapy. For this work, de Hevesy received a Nobel Prize in 1946.

The de Hevesy Award is given annually to one whose work has created a long lasting impact on nuclear medicine practice. The list of previous recipients of this award is impressive and includes 11 Nobel laureates. Among these, for example, are Ernest Lawrence, who built the world’s first cyclotron for the production of radionuclides, and Glenn Seaborg, Ph.D., who discovered more than half a dozen new elements.

Born in India, and having received a BS degree, Dr. Thakur worked for the nation’s Atomic Energy Research Center and then went to England in 1967. He received his MS and Ph.D. degrees from the University of London and worked at the Medical Research Council’s cyclotron unit. Using the world’s first cyclotron dedicated to the production of medically useful radionuclides. Dr. Thakur, with his colleagues, developed methods for the production and separation of several medically useful radionuclides and many useful radioactive compounds. Among the more well known agents they developed in the early 1970s were Kr-81m for ventilation studies and In-111-bleomycin for imaging tumors. The Krypton-81m generator was available commercially in the US and is still being used in Europe. During 1976-1977, Dr. Thakur, with his coworkers, developed a technique to radiolabel blood elements using In-111-oxine for a variety of diagnostic applications that has remained one of the most established techniques in nuclear medicine. In 1977 Dr. Thakur was invited to work at Yale University School of Medicine in Connecticut, USA. During his tenure at Yale, one of his goals was to replace In-111 with Tc-99m and be able to label blood cells in vivo rather than the present technique, in which patients’ blood samples must be drawn, blood handled, and cells labeled in vitro. This work led to Dr. Thakur to the development of a Tc-99m labeled anti-CD15 antibody that selectively labels human neutrophils in vivo and permits localization of acute abscess or inflammatory foci within minutes of its administration. This is a significant improvement over his previous technique that required two to three hours of laboratory work and a six to 24 hour waiting period before imaging studies could be performed. The antibody is awaiting FDA approval for use in nuclear medicine.

The major thrust of Dr. Thakur’s current research is the development of radiolabeled receptor specific biomolecules for diagnostic and therapeutic applications. One of these agents targets VIP receptors that are expressed on more tumors in higher density than other characteristic oncogenic receptors, such as somatostatin. Early clinical studies indicate that the work may lead to the development of a tumor imaging agent that may not only image tumors but pre-cancerous lesions containing VIP receptors as well.

Dr. Thakur has previously received numerous national and international honors and awards, including the American Chemical Society’s Maurice Chamberlain Award for “Improving the Quality of Life Through Chemistry” and the Society of Nuclear Medicine’s Paul Aebersold Award for “Outstanding Achievement in Basic Science Applied to Nuclear Medicine” and the Vikram Sarabhai award for “Brilliant Accomplishments in the Field of Radiopharmaceuticals”. Dr. Thakur serves as a member of the editorial board of seven journals, including The Journal of Nuclear Medicine, The European Journal of Nuclear Medicine, and Cancer Research. He has edited four books, is a member of several professional societies, reviews grants for the USA, Canada, and Kuwait, and is a founding member of the International Society of Radiolabeled Blood Elements (ISORBE), of which he was the first president.

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