In memoriam Professor Jacques Hors

With sadness, we have to announce that Professor Jacques Hors, EFI President from 1992-1994, has passed away three weeks ago. Please find below homage for Professor Hors written by Drs Colette RAFFOUX and Marie-Marthe TONGIO, with inputs from the immunologists of HLA laboratories, and corrected by Dr Nuala MOONEY.

Born in 1933 in Pnomh Penh (Cambodia), Jacques Hors studied medicine in Paris and interned in Professor Hamburger’s service at Necker Hospital. There he quickly became interested in renal transplantation and joined the laboratory of Professor Jean Dausset (Nobel Prize, 1980), of whom he became a close collaborator. His research focused on the association between the histocompatibility antigens in the success or failure of organ transplantation. Jacques participated in the creation of a group of blood donors and their families called the Panel to test the transmission of genetic markers of the Histocompatibility system. The Panel played a crucial role in the advancement of research at that time, and he was deeply grateful to those donors.

With Jean Dausset, Jacques Hors created France-Transplant on June 23rd 1969, thanks to financial support from the Ministry of Health and the National Health Insurance Fund (Caisse Nationale d’Assurance Maladie) which extended to the national scale the pioneering experiments conducted at the regional level by Paris-Transplant and by Rhône Méditerranée-Transplant (south-east of France). He helped to build an up-to-date and readily accessible waiting-list of potential  graft recipients that allowed selection in complete transparency of the most suitable donor with a maximum of information. This was carried-out with the means available, initially with a system of ‘recipient cards’ which was later replaced by a computerized system administered by the French health service and  known as ‘Cristal’, which is still currently in use. A dedicated service was then established making the human and technical link between the teams who proposed an organ and those who were ready to transplant it. This Secretariat was located for 25 years in the attic of the Lugol building at Hospital Saint-Louis and Jacques was its General Secretary. Until 1994, he organised annually the immunology component of the meetings of France-Transplant that brought together the medical and transplant surgery teams with the francophone Histocompatibility laboratories.

Jacques Hors took part in all the International Histocompatibility Workshops, which aimed at improving techniques until the availability of molecular biology techniques. Another aspect of his research was HLA and diseases, in particular diabetes. Professor in immunology at University Paris VII, he trained and mentored young scientists on HLA throughout his entire career.

At the international level, Jacques was a member of the Experts Committee on Histocompatibility of the Council of Europe. This Committee, which originated from the Blood Transfer Experts Committee, aimed at standardising techniques used in Histocompatibility. In view of this, its members organised annual workshops based on the exchange of serums, cells and DNA, etc. This Committee led to the creation of the European Federation for Immunogenetics, EFI, of which Jacques was the 4th President from 1992 to 1994. Under the auspices of the Council of Europe, he launched the first call to recruit EFI inspectors, specifying the qualifications required, the modalities of accreditation visits of laboratories, fixing the date of the first training session (10 and 11 March 1994). He became afterwards the first Chairman of the EFI Accreditation Committee.

Finally, he co-authored, with the reflection group on the ethics of transplants, a book entitled “Monotheistic religions and organ transplantation”.

On a more personal note, Jacques Hors was, throughout his life, a committed and ardent defender of peace, after a childhood marked by the conflicts of the Second World War, and a period of imprisonment in south-east Asia. He passed away last October in his best-loved house in the Pyrénées.