J. Evan Sadler, 1951-2018

Tributes paid to leading haematologist who transformed our understanding of blood clotting

January 3, 2019
J. Evan Sadler

A leading haematologist who transformed our understanding of blood clotting has died.

J. Evan Sadler was born in Huntington, West Virginia in 1951 and studied chemistry at Princeton University (1969-73). He then moved on to Duke University, where he gained both a PhD in biochemistry (1978) and a medical degree (1979). After a postgraduate internship at Duke, he completed his fellowship training at the University of Washington, Seattle (1981-84).

In 1984, Professor Sadler joined the medical faculty at Washington University in St Louis, Missouri, where he remained for the rest of his career. Initially employed as an associate investigator in the Howard Hughes Medical Institute and assistant professor of medicine, he soon rose through the ranks, becoming both a professor of medicine and professor of biochemistry and molecular biology in 1993, head of the Division of Hematology in 2009 and Ira M. Lang professor of medicine in 2014.

Blood that clots when it shouldn’t and blood that fails to clot when it should can both lead to major medical problems such as heart attacks, strokes and uncontrolled bleeding (together responsible for more deaths in the US than all types of cancer put together). Professor Sadler shed crucial light on such processes through his pioneering work on specific proteins. This led to a better understanding of von Willebrand disease, an inherited bleeding disorder. Other research showed that a deficiency of a protein known as ADAMTS13 was responsible for a disorder called thrombotic thrombocytopenic purpura, which causes clotting in small blood vessels.

Building on this basic research, Professor Sadler was able to set improved clinical guidelines for diagnosing and treating these and other clotting and bleeding disorders. His achievements in the field were widely recognised, notably in the 2018 Exemplary Service Award­ from the American Society of Hematology.

Stuart Kornfeld, David C. and Betty Farrell professor of medicine at Washington University, described Professor Sadler as “a brilliant scientist who was among the first to apply the tools of recombinant DNA technology to the field of blood coagulation. This, combined with the high quality and great depth of his studies, propelled him to the top of his field…I have never met a more humble and fair-minded individual who was always striving for excellence. Evan was the perfect role model for the physician-scientist pathway.”

Professor Sadler died after a short illness on 13 December and is survived by his wife Linda Pike, alumni endowed professor of biochemistry and molecular biophysics at Washington University, a daughter, a son and two grandsons.


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