Eva Engvall, born 1940, is one of the scientists who invented ELISA in 1971.
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. In 1979, Dr. Engvall was recruited to Sanford-Burnham Medical Research Institute in La Jolla, California (then called La Jolla Cancer Research Foundation). For 1993-1996, Dr. Engvall held joint appointments at Sanford-Burnham Medical Research Institute 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. Engvall and Perlmann published their first paper on ELISA in 1971 and demonstrated its quantitative value using alkaline phosphatase as the reporter. Perlmann’s further research included cytotoxicity of human lymphocytes and immunogen selection and epitope mapping for malaria vaccine development.
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 and trichinosis], microbiology, and oncology. Engvall then focused her scientific interests on the biochemistry of tissues, e.g., fibronectin, laminin, integrins, and muscular dystrophies at Sanford-Burnham Medical Research Institute. Engvall’s laboratory also tested the use of differentiation factors for muscle regeneration and myogenic cells from nonmuscle tissues for muscle cell replacement.
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, 5 years after they had published their first papers.