Eva Engvall

Eva Engvall is one of the scientists who invented ELISA in 1971. [Eva Engvall, The Scientist 1995, 9(18):8]


Dr. Engvall earned her Ph.D. from the University of Stockholm in 1975. Her postdoctoral work was done at the University of Helsinki and City of Hope National Medical Center in California, where she was subsequently appointed to staff. Dr. Engvall was recruited to The Burnham Institute for Medical Research in 1979. For 1993-1996, Dr. Engvall held joint appointments at Burnham Institute for Medical Research and as Chairperson of the Department of Developmental Biology at Stockholm University. Dr. Engvall received an honorary degree in Medicine from the University of Copenhagen in November 1994.


Enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) uses antibodies to detect proteins and other different immunogens. The ELISA technique was conceptualized and developed by two Swedish scientists: Peter Perlmann (principal investigator) and Eva Engvall at Stockholm University. [ Lequin RM., Enzyme Immunoassay (EIA)/Enzyme-Linked Immunosorbent Assay (ELISA). (2005) Clinical Chemistry 51:2415-2418] Engvall and Perlmann published their first paper on ELISA in 1971 and demonstrated its quantitative value using alkaline phosphatase as the reporter. [Engvall E, Perlman P. (1971) Enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA). Quantitative assay of immunoglobulin G. Immunochemistry. 8(9):871-4] Perlmann’s further research included cytotoxicity of human lymphocytes [Pape GR, Troye M, Axelsson B, Perlmann P. Simultaneous occurrence of immunoglobulin-dependent and immunoglobulin-independent mechanisms in natural cytotoxicity of human lymphocytes. J Immunol 1979;122:2251-2260] and immunogen selection and epitope mapping for malaria vaccine development. [Perlmann P, Berzins K, Perlmann H, Troye-Blomberg M, Wahlgren M, Wahlin B. Malaria vaccines: immunogen selection and epitope mapping [Review] . Vaccine 1998;6:183-187]

Peter Perlman died in 2005, but Eva Engvall continued her track as research scientist. Engvall’s group applied the ELISA measurement tool to parasitology [e.g., malaria [Voller A, Huldt G, Thors C, Engvall E. New serological test for malaria antibodies. Br Med J 1975;1:659-661] and trichinosis [Ljungstrom I, Engvall E, Ruitenberg EJ. Proceedings: ELISA, enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay—a new technique for sero-diagnosis of trichinosis. Parasitology 1974;69:xxiv] ] , microbiology, [ Engvall E. Quantitative enzyme immunoassay (ELISA) in microbiology. Med Biol 1977;55:193-200] and oncology. [Seppala M, Rutanen EM, Heikinheimo M, Jalanko H, Engvall E. Detection of trophoblastic tumour activity by pregnancy-specific β1 glycoprotein. Int J Cancer 1978;21:265-267] [Sipponen P, Ruoslahti E, Vuento M, Engvall E, Stenman U. CEA and CEA-like activity in gastric cancer. Acta Hepatogastroenterol (Stuttg) 1976;13:276-279] [Uotila M, Ruoslathi E, Envall E. Two-site sandwich enzyme immunoassay with monoclonal antibodies to human alphafetoprotein. J Immunol Methods 1981;42:11-15] Engvall then focused her scientific interests on the biochemistry of tissues, e.g., fibronectin, laminin, integrins, and muscular dystrophies at the Burnham Institute for Medical Research. Engvall’s laboratory also tested the use of differentiation factors for muscle regeneration and myogenic cells from nonmuscle tissues for muscle cell replacement. [Engvall E, Wewer UM. The new frontier in muscular dystrophy research: booster genes. FASEB J 2003;17:1579-1584]

The award

Since its invention ELISA now has a staggering number of analytical and clinical applications. The number of ELISA assay for routine patient care today are astronomical. There's not a modern clinical laboratory that doesn't use the ELISA or one of its descendants. Perlmann and Engvall were honored for their invention when they received the German scientific award of the "Biochemische Analytik" in 1976 (see on the right), 5 years after they had published their first papers. Given the impact of ELISA on the academic research, clinical diagnosis and healthcare in general, as well as on the development of a well-established in vitro diagnostic industry, ELISA deserve to be honored again.

ee also

* Antibody
* Immunohistochemistry
* Immunology
* history of immunology
* list of immunologists
* Diagnosis
* Burnham Institute for Medical Research


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