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January 25, 2016

Remembering Dr. Paul I. Terasaki

Dr. Paul I. Terasaki, 86, HLA Transplant Pioneer and Professor of Surgery at UCLA passed away on Monday, January 25, 2016 at his home in Beverly Hills. He was born on September 10, 1929 in Los Angeles, California to Shuhei George Terasaki and Hanako Kaya.


In 1942, President Franklin D. Roosevelt issued executive order 9066, sending the Terasaki family, along with tens of thousands of Japanese Americans, to relocation camps in scattered locations throughout the country. Interred at the Gila River Relocation Camp in Arizona, he spent three of his formative high school years while there. At the end World War II, the family was released and subsequently moved to Chicago, IL where he graduated from Hyde Park High School.


Following the advice of his parents, Terasaki enrolled at the University of Illinois at Navy Pier as a pre-med student for two years. In 1948 the family, unable to deal with the cold weather in Chicago, returned to Southern California where he transferred to UCLA and earned his Bachelor’s, Masters and Ph.D degrees in Zoology.


After receiving his Ph.D, Dr. Terasaki was hired by the UCLA Department of Surgery, where he met Professor William Longmire, one of the founders of the UCLA School of Medicine. Dr. Longmire supported the research work of Dr. Terasaki and played a pivotal role in assisting Terasaki in obtaining a post-doctoral position in the laboratory of Nobel Laureate, Sir Peter Medawar, at the University College in London. His work with Professor Medawar would set the tone for his future research in transplantation.


In 1964, Dr. Terasaki introduced the microcytotoxicity test at the international conference of scientists held at Duke University in North Carolina, revolutionizing the field of transplantation. It was ultimately adopted as the international standard for genetically matching transplant patients and recipients. In 1969, Dr. Terasaki officially established the UCLA Tissue Typing Laboratory, directing the laboratory until his retirement in 1999. For nearly 50 years, he has additionally focused on the study of the humoral theory of transplant rejection, which states that antibodies cause allograft rejection.


Following his retirement from UCLA, he founded the Terasaki Foundation, a research center dedicated to cancer immunotherapy and the study of humoral immunity and transplantation. In 1984, he founded One Lambda, Inc., a transplant diagnostic company, to develop and provide transplant centers worldwide with the tools needed to better match their patients and monitor them pre/post-transplant. In 2012, he sold One Lambda, Inc. to Thermo Fisher Scientific.


An inspirational role model, Dr. Terasaki published many books, wrote numerous scientific papers and served on several editorial boards in the field of transplantation, as well as received many awards, including the prestigious Medawar Prize. The prize, named after Dr. Terasaki’s mentor, Sir Peter Medawar, recognizes an outstanding investigator whose contributions had a profound influence on the field of organ transplantation and is awarded by The International Transplantation Society. In 2003, the American Society for Histocompatibility and Immunogenetics (ASHI) established the Paul I. Terasaki Clinical Science Award, which recognizes a transplant clinician whose scientific contributions have had a major impact in the field of transplantation.


Throughout his life, Dr. Terasaki, along with his wife Hisako, was committed to preserving the history of Japanese Americans in the Unites States. He served on numerous committees, as well as contributed generously to the Japanese American National Museum in Los Angeles, The Memorial to Japanese-American Patriotism in World War II in Washington D.C., and the establishment of the Paul I. and Hisako Terasaki Center for Japanese Studies at the UCLA International Institute. In the field of science, the Terasaki’s were major contributors to UCLA, leading to the creation of the Terasaki Life Science Building and the Paul I. Terasaki Chair in Surgery at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA. In 1998, he established the Nibei Foundation in Los Angeles which offers postdoctoral Japanese physicians who come to the United States an opportunity to meet and participate in research projects with Los Angeles based Japanese/American physicians.


Dr. Terasaki is survived by his wife Hisako, his four children, Mark, Keith, Taiji, Emiko, six grandchildren and his brother Richard Terasaki. In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to the Terasaki Foundation, 11570 Olympic Blvd, Los Angeles, California 90064. Funeral services were held on Saturday, February 6 at 2:00pm at the First United Methodist Church of Santa Monica, 1008 11th Street, Santa Monica, California 90403. A memorial service is planned for Sunday, March 6, 2016 at UCLA Royce Hall starting at 11:00am. For additional information, please contact the Terasaki Foundation at

Community Response


"Farewell to a great innovator and scientific contributor, Paul I. who has been my mentor and inspiration through the last 40 years working with him. It has been a privilege to be associated with a man that made a difference in the field of transplantation and helped save so many lives over the last 50 years of his career. He pioneered the technology that has ushered in tremendous scientific achievements and made such a positive impact on the world. Dr. Terasaki's passing is a big loss for the transplant community and the people who knew him and were fortunate to work with him. Dr. Terasaki will be dearly missed, and his contributions and legacy will live with us for a long time to come. May God bless his soul."
— George M Ayoub


"Our condolences go out to all at One Lambda and especially the family of Dr. Terasaki. On behalf of us at Cemrad."
— Andrew Chin


"Mi mas sentidas condolencias por tan irreparable perdida. Q.E.P.D. Dr. Terasaki."
— Evaristo Venegas


"What a great loss for the Transplant community. He was a great scientist and a true friend. he will be missed. May God bless his fear soul in heaven."
— Marwan Masri


"Dr. Terasaki was a visionary and made enormous contributions to the field of medicine and society in general. He will be missed. Please send my condolences to our colleagues that had the good fortune of working with him."
— Marc N. Casper



"Very, very, very sad... Unique personality who created and crafted the transplant immunology field as it is today. And a very good and wise man."
— Alin Girnita


"Wow, a legend gone. My condolences to all."
— Ron Kerman


"I am so very sorry to hear this devastating news. Please accept my deepest condolences. He was such an inspiration to the entire transplant community but especially to me. May he rest in peace. In deepest sorrow"
— Nancy Reinsmoen


"I am terribly saddened by the news. Please send my condolences to the family."
— Chee Loong Saw


"So sorry to hear... he was the leader in our field and will be sorely missed."
— Laurine Bow


"To all at One Lambda, May I offer my heart felt sympathies to all of you and to Dr Terasakis family, I and many many people owe him a great debt of gratitude. He will be sorely missed but has left a phenomenal legacy that has and will continue to benefit transplant patients around the world."
— Andrew Hewitt


"Thanks for the note / huge loss and very sad day indeed"
— Peter Nickerson


"My sincere condolences. So sorry to hear. What a great loss. Kind regards"
— Frieda Jordan