Eugene Goldwasser, the biochemist who isolated and purified the anti-anemia protein erythropoietin - arguably the most important biological drug since insulin - died Friday at his home in Chicago of kidney failure associated with prostate cancer. He was 88.

Erythropoietin, commonly known as EPO, was one of the first blockbuster drugs of the biotechnology industry and was the foundation for the success of Amgen of Thousand Oaks, Calif. Yet neither the University of Chicago, where Goldwasser isolated the drug, nor the National Institutes of Health, which funded his work, chose to patent the discovery, and Goldwasser himself never got around to it.

His first wife, Florence, died in 1981. He is survived by his second wife, Deone; three sons, Thomas of San Francisco, Matthew of Chicago and James of New York; two stepchildren; and seven grandchildren.

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