Melvin Cohn was widely respected for his decorated history in the immunological sciences, and was a keystone in the development of the La Jolla Immunology Conference. Following his service in World War II as a clinical laboratory researcher in the Pacific Theater, Cohn set out to get is Ph.D in Protein Biochemistry from New York University. He held a number of professor positions from institutions like Stanford University, and Washington University in St. Louis. Cohn later became a National Science Foundation fellow at L’Institut Pasteur in Paris, where he would meet his wife, Suzanne Bourgeois. In 1961, at the personal appeal of Jonas Salk, Cohn became a founding resident and fellow at the Salk Institute. He also assumed a faculty position with UC San Diego for more than 30 years. In 2011 he was named Professor Emeritus at the Salk Institute, and remained active in the research community up until his passing in late October 2018.
Melvin Cohn was held in high regard in the field of immunology, and served at a keynote lecturer at various symposia. He also was member of numerous academic and research societies, and was awarded the Sandoz Prize in Basic Immunology and the Eli Lilly Award in Microbiology and Immunology, among others. Over the course of his career, he published more than 300 peer-reviewed articles in a variety of notable academic journals , some as recent as 2018.
Perhaps the most important fact about Melvin Cohn pertaining to this conference, and why his namesake is used for the La Jolla Immunology Conference’s award for exceptional graduate and postdoctoral research, is that Cohn was a founding member of the LJIC, and has held attendance of this conference for all the years prior to this one.
Sadly, the 2019 LJIC will be first one he will not attend since is passing in October of last year; but as the LJIC turns 45 this year, his legacy will always be seen as the foundation for this conference. Melvin Cohn is survived by Suzanne Bourgeois-Cohn, who still plays a crucial role in the LJIC, and who shares the history of Mel Cohn, the LJIC, and the Salk Institute to attendees each year.