Endre A. Balazs, MD distinguished himself through pioneering research on the structure and biological activity of hyaluronan, a viscoelastic polysaccharide present in all tissues of the human body, but in larger amounts in the vitreus of the eye and in the soft tissues of joints and skin.
As the world’s leading expert for over 50 years on this important macromolecule, his work has encompassed numerous pioneering discoveries. These contributions include extracting and purifying the molecule itself, thus providing hyaluronan therapeutics to treat the symptoms of arthritis in tens of millions of patients and to protect the eyes of hundreds of millions of patients undergoing cataract surgery and intraocular lens replacement worldwide.
Dr. Balazs received his medical degree from the University of Budapest in 1942. He launched his research career at the Department of Histology and Embryology of the University. In 1947 he continued his research at the Department of Experimental Histology of the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm. In 1951, at the invitation of Harvard Medical School, he moved to Boston to set up the research laboratories and organize the Retina Foundation and later became its President. He was co-founder of the Boston Biomedical Research Institute where he worked from 1968-1975. Dr. Balazs moved to New York and continued his research and teaching at Columbia Presbyterian Hospital as Director of Ophthalmic Research. He is currently the Malcolm P. Aldrich Research Professor Emeritus.
In 1968, Dr. Balazs founded Biotrics Inc. to develop methods to produce and apply hyaluronan for medical purposes. In 1981, he co-founded Biomatrix, Inc. with his wife, Dr. Janet Denlinger. As the company’s Chief Executive Officer and Chief Science Officer, he established a strong research and development program that focused on modifying hyaluronan, work that led to important therapeutic applications, including a viscoelastic supplement for arthritic joints. After Biomatrix was sold in 2000, he continued his research and development work on hyaluronan at the Matrix Biology Institute that he and Dr. Denlinger founded as a charitable medical research foundation.
At his initiative in 1962 the first international eye research journal, Experimental Eye Research (Academic Press) was founded with him as Editor-in-Chief until 1991. He also initiated and co-founded the International Society for Eye Research (1974) and was its General Secretary and later President. In 1986, the International Society for Eye Research established the Endre A. Balazs Prize and named him Honorary President of the Society. Recently, he founded the International Society of Hyaluronan Sciences.
Dr. Balazs received many honors for his research/development and organizational work. He was a recipient of the Friedenwald Award from the Association for Research in Ophthalmology (1963); the Cornelius D. Binkhorst Medal from The American Academy of Ophthalmology (1986); Ellis Island Medal of Honor, NY (2004); In 2005 he was awarded the George Washington Award of the American Hungarian Foundation, which honours persons whose eminent contributions are in the broad field of human knowledge, the arts, commerce, industry, the sciences, and understanding men among men and nations; Distinguished Alumni Award from the Schepens Eye Research Institute (2008); Ophthalmology Hall of Fame by the American Society of Cataract and Refractive Surgery (2009); He became an external member of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences in the Section of Chemistry in 2010; Helen Keller Prize for Vision Research (2011); and in 2012, the New Jersey Inventors Hall of Fame recognized him for “Lifetime patent and technology achievement related to eye and orthopedic research and groundbreaking discoveries in utilizing hyaluronan for therapeutic purposes”.