Monroe M. 'Monty' Vincent, early leader in cell-production industry, dies at 98

Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, March 7, 2011; 6:57 PM

Monroe M. "Monty" Vincent, who with his brother-in-law Samuel Reader helped turn Bethesda's Microbiological Associates into one of the first mass-manufacturers of cells that scientists could use to study human genetics and disease, died Feb. 24 at a retirement home in Los Altos, Calif. He was 98 and had congestive heart failure.

In the early 1950s, Reader was the president of Microbiological Associates. But it was his business partner, Mr. Vincent, who had a background in science and recognized the potential market for cells, according to "The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks," a 2010 bestseller by Rebecca Skloot.

Skloot's book tells how cancer cells taken from a Baltimore woman, Henrietta Lacks, became the first human cell line hardy enough to reproduce and thrive in laboratories. Reproduced by the trillion, "HeLa" cells became the foundation for countless scientific breakthroughs and for a multimillion-dollar cell-production industry. Microbiological Associates was an early leader in the field.

"Reader and Vincent," wrote Skloot, "used HeLa cells as the springboard to launch the first industrial-scale, for-profit cell distribution center."

The company diversified to provide a full menu of tissue and cell cultures to scientists around the world, including those at the National Institutes of Health. In the late 1960s, Mr. Vincent and Reader sold the company, which is now known as BioReliance.

Mr. Vincent became a research associate at the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences in Bethesda, where he worked in fields including immunology, virology and tropical medicine. He retired in 1998.

Monroe Mortimer Vincent was born in Cleveland and graduated in 1934 from what is now Case Western Reserve University.

He served in the Army Medical Corps from 1943 to 1949. During World War II, he was the head of a malaria control unit in the South Pacific.

After the war, he moved to the Washington area. He was a Chevy Chase resident before moving to California in 2005.

Mr. Vincent was a founding member of the Tissue Culture Association, now known as the Society for In Vitro Biology; the Society for Cryobiology; and the Animal Care Panel, which in the early 1960s wrote a guide for the humane treatment of laboratory animals.

Mr. Vincent played violin and viola in several Washington area chamber groups.

His wife of 12 years, Rose Gold Vincent, died in 1952. Survivors include his son, Robert Vincent of Oakland, Calif.; a sister; and two grandsons.

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