John Jarvis, a former research assistant, who spent nearly 40 years at the LMB working alongside César Milstein, in the PNAC Division, died on Thursday 1st September 2022, aged 80. John dedicated his time to working as personal technical assistant to César, and supported him throughout his research on immunology. César’s work on the development of monoclonal antibodies led to the award of the 1982 Nobel Prize in Medicine.
John was born in Gravesend, Kent on 14th February 1942. After attending Cambridge Grammar School, he started work in August 1960 as a laboratory assistant in the University of Cambridge’s Department of Biochemistry. At that time, both Fred Sanger and César Milstein were in the Department. Fred was leading a small group working on amino-acid sequencing, and had already been awarded his first Nobel Prize, in 1958, for this work. César was completing a PhD, prior to returning to his native Argentina.
When the research John was involved in ended, he applied to work with César, who was now at the LMB, in a new building on the outskirts of Cambridge. In September 1963, John started as a research assistant and quickly became César’s personal technician, with whom he remained until César’s death in 2002. During this time, John was involved with the research into immunoglobulin structure, using both protein and DNA sequencing, and the studies on antibody diversity and monoclonal antibody production. He was a joint author on many of the group’s scientific publications. He also contributed to the work of many others in the Division, including George Brownlee; Terry Rabbitts; Michael Neuberger and Cristina Rada.
Away from science, John was a keen sportsman and participated in many of the LMB’s teams, most notably the LMB cricket team. Formally constituted in 1968, with a committee set up by Max Perutz, the team had many successes in the University Inter-Lab League, winning their first trophy, the challenge cup, in 1970.
In December 2002, John retired from the LMB as a senior scientific officer. A few years later he moved to Crowborough, East Sussex. He kept in touch with former colleagues at the LMB and in 2014 attended an alumni symposium, to celebrate the opening of the new laboratory building on the Cambridge Biomedical Campus.
Andrew McKenzie, current Joint-Head of the PNAC Division commented: “John’s dedication and technical skills contributed to one of the most successful research projects at the LMB, the development of monoclonal antibodies, which in turn has led to significant developments in therapeutic treatments and diagnostics. Many of his colleagues will remember him as witty, approachable and always ready to offer help and advice. He is the epitome of the many research and support staff that have allowed the LMB to thrive.”