When the 1984 Nobel Prize in Medicine was awarded recently to European researchers, scientists here were surprised that one of their American colleagues, Dr. Michael Potter, was not included. Yesterday he received a prestigious consolation prize.
The 1984 Albert Lasker Award in basic medical research, a top U.S. scientific honor, went to Potter, chief of the laboratory of genetics at the National Cancer Institute in Bethesda, and two of the Nobel Prize winners -- Cesar Milstein of England and Georges J.F. Kohler of Switzerland.
The trio was cited for basic scientific contributions to the development of a powerful new tool for studying the body's immune system and creating targeted cells, called monoclonal antibodies, that can be used in the diagnosis and treatment of a variety of diseases.
The announcement of the award said Potter's pioneering work with a mouse tumor system in the 1950s was an "essential link in the chain of events" leading to the development of the new technology in the 1970s by Kohler and Milstein.
The Lasker awards, given by the private Albert and Mary Lasker Foundation for 39 years, have gone to 40 scientists who later became Nobel laureates.
The Lasker award in clinical medical research went to Paul C. Lauterbur of the State University of New York at Stony Brook for a noninvasive technique called zeugmatography that creates three-dimensional images of the interior of the human body.
Dr. Henry J. Heimlich of Cincinnati received the Lasker award for public service for developing the Heimlich maneuver, a simple, practical rescue method to help prevent choking deaths.