Elliott Schiffmann


On Dec. 31, 2022, Elliott Schiffmann, of Chevy Chase, died at age 95. He was born on April 23, 1927, in Newark, N.J., to Dr. Samuel Schiffmann and Anna Abelson Schiffmann. He received a bachelor of science degree from Yale University in 1948, and a Ph.D. from Columbia University in 1955.

He worked at the National Institutes of Health National Heart Institute, 1955-62; the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research (NIDCR) 1962-85; and the National Cancer Institute 1985-90.

During his NIH career Dr. Schiffmann showed how hemin (the “heme” in hemoglobin that gives red meat its flavor) is synthesized in the body. He identified small naturally occurring protein fragments (attractants) that drew antibacterial inflammatory cells to attack invading bacteria, killing the bacteria and ending the infection. He showed that attaching an antibiotic to the attractant hastened the ending of the infection. For this discovery, he received the Director’s Award from NIDCR.

At the National Cancer Institute, Dr Schiffmann applied his background in cell motility to study factors that might cause cancer cells to migrate from the primary tumor and spread throughout the body. His published work is a basis for much of today’s immunotherapy of cancers and for future treatments of antibiotic resistant infections. He was a longtime board member of the ACLU’s Montgomery County Chapter.


Survived by his wife, Genevieve Nih Schiffmann.

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