Walter Dandliker

1992 Outstanding Contributions in a Selected Area of Research

Walter B. Dandliker will receive the 20th annual the Association for Diagnostics & Laboratory Medicine (formerly AACC) Award for Outstanding Contributions to Clinical Chemistry in a Selected Area of Research. This award is sponsored by Roche Diagnostic Systems. A native of Greensburg, PA, Dr. Dandliker graduated from Rollins College with a B.S. degree in chemistry. After graduate work at the California Institute of Technology, he received his Ph.D. in bioorganic chemistry in 1945. Dr. Dandliker’s fruitful career as a researcher eventually led him to applying physical methods, such as light-scattering techniques and fluorescent techniques, to the science of immunology.

His graduate research work with synthetic plasma substitutes led him to the chemistry of macromolecules, and he studied the physical properties of chemically modified gelatins. Next he worked at the University of California at Berkeley on the Rh antigen and structural proteins of the erythrocyte membrane. Part of this research was performed using light scattering with Professor Bruno Zimm.

In 1948 Dr. Dandliker moved to the Department of Physical Chemistry at Harvard Medical School to pursue light-scattering studies with Professor John T. Edsall. Professor Zimm was then at Harvard, and Dr. Dandliker again collaborated with him on the theory of light scattering from very large particles. In 1952 Dr. Dandliker joined the Department of Biochemistry at the University of Washington as an assistant professor and taught biochemistry and biophysical chemistry. By 1957 he had become interested in immunology, as light-scattering techniques were just beginning to be used to elucidate mechanisms of antigen-antibody reactions.

In 1958 he joined the Department of Biochemistry at the University of Miami as an assistant professor. While discussing fluorescent antibody techniques, Dr. Dandliker and a colleague came up with the idea of studying immunochemical reactions by fluorescence polarization, remembering an earlier paper by Gregorio Weber. These studies of precipitin reactions fell into place when they used nanomolar concentrations.

After he moved to the Scripps Clinic in 1963, Dr. Dandliker began to investigate immunochemical reactions by systematically using antigens and haptens labeled with fluorescein. He helped to develop the first fluorescent probe to be made with a hapten; it consisted of a penicilloyl group coupled to a fluorescein molecule by a four-carbon linker. This probe demonstrated the feasibility of quantitating specific serum antibodies.

The study of the kinetics and thermodynamics of antigen-antibody reactions and especially of hapten-antibody reactions has been invaluable. The body of background information derived from studies by Dandliker and his colleagues was applied in 1973 to fluorescence-polarization immunoassay, which has proven to be a very useful tool for the clinical laboratory.
In 1982 Dr. Dandliker moved to the University Research Foundation. Instrumental in founding Diatron Corporation, he became Chief Scientist in 1987. At Diatron, Dr. Dandliker and his colleagues conceived the idea of combining transient-state fluorescence with a new class of dye structures (absorbing and emitting in the red and near-infrared range) to produce a new ultrasensitive measurement technique—the Transient-State Fluoroimmunoassay.