Endre A. Balazs, MD, has 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 large amounts in the vitreous of the eye and the soft tissues of joints and skin.
As the world's leading expert on this important macromolecule for over 50 years, Dr. Balazs’ work has encompassed numerous pioneering discoveries. These contributions include extracting and purifying the molecule itself, a medical product that has made intraocular surgeries almost routine and benefited countless eye surgery patients, and a crosslinking technique that ties together hyaluronan strands.
Dr. Balazs received his medical degree from the University of Budapest in 1942 and began his research career in the university’s Department of Histology and Embryology. In 1947, he moved his research to the Department of Experimental Histology of the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm. In 1951, at the invitation of Harvard Medical School, Dr. Balazs moved to Boston to set up the research laboratories and organize the Retina Foundation, of which he later became president. He co-founded the Boston Biomedical Research Institute, where he worked from 1968 to 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 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 Dr. Balazs sold Biomatrix in 2000, he continued his research and development work on hyaluronan at the Matrix Biology Institute, which he and Dr. Denlinger founded as a philanthropic foundation.
In 1962, on Dr. Balazs’ initiative, Experimental Eye Research, the first international eye research journal, was started. Dr. Balazs was the editor in chief until 1991. He also initiated and co-founded the International Society for Eye Research (1991) and was the general secretary and later the president. Recently, Dr. Balazs founded the International Society of Hyaluronan Sciences and is currently the president.
Dr. Balazs has received many honors for his research and development and organizational work. In the field of ophthalmology, he was 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), and the Distinguished Alumni Award from the Schepens Eye Research Institute (2008). In 1986, the International Society for Eye Research established the Endre A. Balazs Prize and named him honorary president of the society.