Itano decided to complete a Ph.D. in chemistry because he wanted to pursue medical
research in the laboratory rather than practice medicine clinically. Prior to his
arrival at Caltech, Itano applied for and received a three-year American Chemical
Society Predoctoral Fellowship in Chemistry, which supported him at Caltech. Itano
stayed in Pasadena until 1954 at which time he relocated to the National Cancer Institute
in Bethesda, Maryland. During his first four years at Caltech, Itano focused on sickle
cell hemoglobin. During his last four years, he continued his research on sickle cell
anemia and began looking for and learning about other abnormal hemoglobins. By 1954
Itano found, either by himself or in collaboration with others, three more abnormal
hemoglobins. These abnormal hemoglobins that Itano discovered are considered the first
The work that Itano accomplished while at Caltech was impressive. In 1955 Pauling
nominated Itano for an award given by the American Association for the Advancement
of Science by citing Itano's sickle cell anemia and abnormal hemoglobin research.
Additionally, Pauling acknowledged Itano's original contributions to hematology by
stating that Itano instigated further research on abnormal hemoglobin and their hemoglobinopathies,
of which about twelve had been discovered by this time. Itano did not receive this
award; however, his contributions were immediately recognized in other ways. He had
received the 1954 Eli Lilly and Company Award in Biological Chemistry and he was invited
to give the George Minot lecture in 1955.
Pauling and Itano corresponded throughout the years after Itano left Caltech. They
discussed the status of hemoglobin research and exchanged Christmas cards. Itano spent
from 1954 to 1970 working in various positions for the National Institutes of Health,
particularly as a surgeon for the National Cancer Institute and as a senior surgeon
and medical director for the National Institute of Arthritis and Metabolic Disorders.
In 1970 Itano went to the University of California at San Diego, where he retired
in 1988 and became an emeritus professor of the Department of Pathology.