Montana BioScience Alliance Hall of Fame 2016
Our 2016 Hall of Fame inductee is Dr. Steve Running, University Regents Professor of Global Ecology at the University of Montana, Missoula.
Steve has been a recognized national leader on ecology and climate change issues for over 20 years. In 1989 he developed the algorithm that NASA satellites use to observe global plant production and its role in climate change and has continued to play a significant role working with NASA to address these issues. Steve currently Chairs the NASA Earth Science subcommittee and is a member of the NASA Science Advisory Council. He also served on the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, for which he and other members of the 2007 IPCC received a Nobel Peace Prize. In 2014 he was a lead author in the US National Climate Assessment.
At the University of Montana since 1979, Steve has focused his career on creating ways to better understand the impacts of continued climate change. As part of his global science work he has visited every continent, including Antarctica and has lived in other countries a half dozen times. A popular speaker, he has published more than 280 scientific articles and two books. A Fellow of the American Geophysical Union, in 2014, Steve was designated one of “The World’s Most Influential Scientific Minds” in Geosciences.
Steve’s concerns about our changing climate are personal as well. A lover of nature and the outdoors, his life has primarily been spent out West. A native of Washington, Steve’s family recreation consisted mostly of camping, hiking and skiing throughout the Pacific Northwest.
He received his BS and MS degrees at Oregon State University and his Ph.D. in Forest Ecology from Colorado State University, arriving in Missoula directly after his PhD work. Not surprisingly, Steve’s main hobbies are outdoors – camping, hiking, biking, skiing, hunting, windsurfing, and kayaking. He notes that he started windsurfing in 1984, and is now one of the very few windsurfers left on Flathead Lake. His free time is spent at his family cabin on Flathead Lake.
Steve is also proud of the fact that he has been a confirmed bike commuter since age 18. In his entire career – including sabbaticals – he has never had a job where he regularly commuted by car!
IF WE CONTINUE GOING ON WITH BUSINESS AS USUAL, AT THE END OF THIS CENTURY, OUR PLANET WILL BE DOMINATED BY COCKROACHES, NOT HUMANS.
Dr. Carlson’s underlying research focus has been the application of formal and molecular mouse genetics to advance the understanding of susceptibility to neurodegenerative diseases.
He took over as Director of McLaughlin in 1988. At the time, the research Institute had only a single faculty member and a small facility. But under his leadership, the Institute has grown significantly both in terms of personnel and research facilities to achieve a global reputation.
McLaughlin Research Institute is now recognized internationally as a leader in the application of mouse genetics to the understanding of susceptibility to neurological and other diseases in humans. Work done at MRI helped revolutionize our understanding of neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases.
George has served on a number of public advisory panels and currently is a member of the Board of Directors of the University of Minnesota’s Bud Grossman Center for Memory Research and Care. Biotechnology and pharmaceutical companies, such as Celltech and Amgen also have called on George’s expertise in mouse genetics.
Most recently, Nobel Laureate and long-time collaborator Stan Prusiner said of Dr. Carlson in his book Madness and Memory, “Though shy and quiet, this self-effacing man was a brilliant scientist whose modesty almost always was inappropriate.”
The Institute’s scientists have been long-time leaders in the study of deadly, brain-wasting diseases, and one of their latest projects is working on finding the answer to a hereditary disease called fatal familial insomnia (FFI).
Though an extremely rare disease affecting roughly 100 people worldwide, George explained, with the “inability to sleep, you start becoming demented, losing consciousness, inability to recognize your loved ones—like Alzheimer’s, except death occurs within a year of diagnosis.”
The McLaughlin Research Institute has partnered with the Prion Alliance, a foundation started after a woman watched her mother die from FFI, and knows she now faces the same.Carlson says the research into FFI will not only benefit the small population affected, but could lead to discoveries that impact much more common
Now we know that the mechanisms involved in prion disorders are how Alzheimer’s, for example, spreads from one part of the brain to the other. Other diseases like Parkinson’s spread from one part of the nervous system to the other.
George is proud of the fact that the Institute sponsors summer internships for Montana high school students and undergraduates and also offers research and curriculum development programs for area teachers—in fact the majority of the biology teachers in Great Falls have worked at the Institute.
Dr. Anne Camper
Our Hall of Fame inductee for 2013 is Dr. Anne Camper, currently the Associate Dean of Engineering and Professor of Civil Engineering at Montana State University in Bozeman where she has had a life-long connection.
Anne is another in a long line of home grown Montanans who have excelled in the field of biosciences. Anne’s early childhood was spent camping and indulging in her father’s fly-fishing passion on Montana’s river. This transitioned into many summer hours on horseback in the Selway Bitterroot Wilderness area where she developed a deep appreciation for the importance of water (maybe there is something in the water, after all!). These experiences cemented her developing an interest in a career in science, with a particular focus in microbiology and preserving our water resources.
As like many other of our past recipients, Anne was fortunate to have had a high school science teacher who allowed her to pursue an individual project where she investigated the change in microbiological water quality of the Bitterroot River – starting with the headwaters of the West Fork and ending at the mouth in Missoula. With this project she won the State Science Fair and participated at the International Science Fair in Baltimore, MD. Another transformative opportunity was an American Cancer Society fellowship that allowed her to work for a summer at the Rocky Mountain Laboratory in Hamilton on a project related to immune responses to the Bordetella pertussis vaccine.
Camper developed an early connection to Montana State University (MSU) as an undergraduate. Studying microbiology, she was able to take classes from internationally known faculty in environmental microbiology, immunology, and medical microbiology. She was hired to work and do research and spent many hours in Cooley Laboratory. After also obtaining a M.S. in environmental microbiology, Camper was hired as a research scientist where she investigated the behavior of microorganisms in drinking water, soils reclaimed after coal strip mining and other topics.
Later she was given the privilege to work with Dr. Bill Characklis as he started what was to become the Center for Biofilm Engineering. In that capacity Camper developed an interest and appreciation for solving real world problems where the fields of microbiology and engineering intersected and how solutions to these problems would have immediate impact. The experience of working across disciplinary boundaries pushed her to obtain a Ph.D. in civil/environmental engineering.
Dr. Camper has also been involved with the Center for Biofilm Engineering at MSU since its inception. Her research interests are in biofilm growth and control in drinking and industrial water systems; the fate, transport and survival of pathogens in biofilm systems; and the physiology of biofilm bacteria. She has been the principal investigator or co-principal investigator on over 75 grants. Along with Andreas Nocker, a German colleague, she holds a patent on the use of propidium monoazide for the detection of viable organisms via PCR based technologies.
In addition, Dr. Camper also directs community based participatory research funded by NIH with the Crow Tribe in Montana and as the PL on two projects supporting Native American undergraduate and graduate students engaged in health related degree programs. Awards include MSU’s Wiley Award for Meritorious Research, the American Consulting Engineers Council of Massachusetts’s Grand Conceptor Award and the American Academy of Environmental Engineering Excellence in Environmental
Engineering Research Grand Prize (as part of a team of industry and academic partners) and chair of Division Q (Environmental Microbiology) for the American Society for Microbiology.
Irv Weissman is our inductee to the Montana BioScience Hall of Fame this year. Another notable Montana addition to the list of internationally renowned figures in the world of BioScience, Weissman was born and raised in Great Falls, started his scientific career at the McLaughlin Research Institute and received his BS from Montana State University.
In 1988 he became the first scientist to identify and isolate stem cells in any species, opening a whole new area of scientific research. This initial discovery has led to embryonic stem cells and ushered in a second biotech revolution, offering a whole new array of medicines.
The 2002 California Scientist of the Year, Weissman is currently Director of the Stanford University Stem Cell Institute and many have touted him as a future Nobel prize winner. He discovered his passion for science when he read Paul de Kruif’s “Microbe Hunters”, which detailed the adventures of Louis Pasteur, Robert Koch and other early bacteriologists, when he was only ten years old.
Weissman is also renowned for mentoring a number of great scientists and tells his story about his own influential mentors ‘What was amazingly lucky for me is that I had role models, but in fact no one overseeing my research after high school. I began research as a junior in high school with a pathologist who was tired of academia and moved to run a path lab practice at Montana Deaconess Hospital in Great Falls Montana. His name was Ernst Eichwald, and he had just discovered the HY antigen by showing an inbred strain of mice that females always rejected male skin. By the end of my senior year in high school I was mainly doing my own project. I continued in summers during my 3 years of college. By then I had published with Eichwald that the unresponsive strains lacked immune reactivity genes.
When I entered Stanford Med School, I met Henry Kaplan who was a remarkable man; he was chief of all Radiology, had published on leading edge papers in immunology, leukemia, and radiation targets. He had also just made Hodgkin’s Disease an 85% curable disease instead of 0%, and had even written a diagnostic radiology of the heart text. He gave me a lab, a part time technician, and allowed me to recruit other med students into the lab. I chose to continue my exploration of immune tolerance to try to understand the development of the immune system. I also set up a personal tutorial with Kaplan where I took his lab notebooks and reconstructed his mouse discoveries. I also read every paper he wrote. Those experiences taught me what it took to translate discoveries into potential therapies. Kaplan also sponsored me to work with Sir James Gowans at Oxford University. When I returned to finish Med School, I decided to keep doing research, and again Kaplan kept open a lab for me until I became an assistant professor in late 1968.
What was obvious is that I had fantastic role models, but none of them oversaw much of my research. So I was free to learn the problems and possibilities of discovery on my own. The experiments on immune tolerance led to the lineage tracing technique I developed and from their to the bone marrow origins of all immune cells, and from there to stem cells.
Dr. Maurice Hilleman
Our first inductee is Maurice Ralph Hilleman, whose vaccines have probably saved more lives than any scientist in the past century.
“Among scientists, he is a legend. But to the general public, he is the world’s best kept secret,” noted Anthony S. Fauci, Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. “I think, without hyperbole, he as an individual has had a more positive impact on the health of the world than any other scientist, any other vaccinologist, in history.”
Dr. Hilleman created eight of the 14 most commonly used vaccines, including those for mumps, measles, chicken pox, pneumonia, meningitis, rubella and many other infectious diseases. His measles vaccine alone is estimated to prevent 1 million deaths worldwide every year. In addition to his creation of nearly 40 vaccines, Dr. Hilleman discovered several viruses and discovered the genetic changes that occur when the influenza virus mutates, known as shift and drift.
A native of Miles City, he grew up on a relative’s farm with seven siblings and went on to graduate from Montana State University and receive his doctoral degree in microbiology from the University of Chicago. Dr. Hilleman died in 2005 at the age of 85.
In an oft-told story, one of his daughters contracted mumps in 1963, just before he was to leave on an overseas trip. He took a culture from her throat, immersed the swabs in beef broth and took them to the laboratory freezer in the middle of the night. He later used the specimen to isolate the mumps virus, grow it in the cells of chicken embryos and produce a very weak version of the virus, enough to trigger the body’s defenses and immunize whoever took the vaccine. He named it the Jeryl Lynn strain, after that daughter.
He was most proud of his work controlling infectious diseases in children, the combined MMR shot and the hepatitis vaccines.
Well, looking back on one’s lifetime, you say, ‘Gee, what have I done—have I done enough for the world to justify having been here?’ That’s a big worry—to people from Montana, at least. And I would say I’m kind of pleased about all this,” he said. “I would do it over again because there’s great joy in being useful, and that’s the satisfaction that you get out of it. Other than that, it’s the quest of science and winning a battle over these damn bugs.
Dr. Maurice Ralph Hilleman
“Goddamnit, science has to produce something useful. That’s the payback to society for support of the enterprise.” – Maurice Hilleman, 1999
Dr. Edgar Ribi
While Montana has a long tradition of producing leaders in the life sciences, perhaps no one’s work has made a more significant economic contribution to our state than that of Edgar Ribi. His discoveries and work have directly led to the establishment of the GlasxoSmithKline (GSK) presence in Hamilton.
Born in Zurich, Switzerland in 1920, Dr. Ribi and his family immigrated to the United States where he eventually headed the biophysics section and became Acting Chief at the National Institute of Infectious Diseases Lab-Hamilton’s Rocky Mountain Labs (RML).
Ribi was interested in applying chemical technologies to the study of immunology and discovered a cure for a type of bovine and equine cancer. At the time, it was known that certain kinds of bacteria act as adjuvants, meaning they stimulate the body’s immune responses. Ribi used his chemical background to dissect the bacteria and reassemble its componenets into nonharmful adjuvants.
Unable to get his research funded and wanting to find commercial applications for his work, Ribi founded Ribi ImmunoChem Research in 1981, which became a leading biochemical research company. The company worked on anti-caner agents, anti-infectious agents and super vaccines. Some of the products it developed were Ribigen(an anti-tumor agent used in cattle), Detox (a human anti-cancer agent) and Ovamid (an anti-tumor agent intended for treating ovarian and cervical cancers).
Gary Christianson, a former site director at GSK, noted that Ribi’s research, in its most basic form, was at RML where he was really studying the immune system. He discovered a method to detoxity endotoxin is now the key adjuvant (immunobooster) component in many of GSK’s vaccines (including their HPV vaccine) the reason Corixa bought Ribi and GSK bought Corixa.
Ribi died unexpectedly in 1986 at the age of 66. His company, ImmunoChem, was acquired by Corixa Corporation in 1999 and by GSK in 2005. But his work and legacy continue stronger than ever in Hamilton, Montana, a place that became home.
He wrote about the story of going to Calgary in the early 1950’s to pick up his U.S. immigration visas with a colleague.
Re-entering the U.S. was not so easy and for some hours we were in No-Man’s Land. The custome officer needed more than just proof with documents. We had to name a person in the U.S. whom he knew and who knew us. This person turned out to be the Sheriff of Hamilton, Montana, and a telephone conversation between the two officials made it possible to happily enter U.S. and Montana territory. For us, Montana became the permanent home and the U.S. the new home country.
Dr. Ernst Eichwald
Our inductee this year is Dr. Ernst Eichwald, an early trailblazer in the field of tissue transplantation and the founder of the lab that was eventually to become the McLaughlin Research Institute in Great Falls.
Born in Hanover Germany, Dr. Eichwald received a medical degree from Freiburg, before moving to the United States in 1938 at the age of 25. He continued his studies in pathology and during WW II served as head of laboratory services in the U.S. Army, in various locations in the Pacific theatre. After the war, he became an Associate Professor of Pathology at the University of Utah.
Eichwald’s impact in Montana began in 1953 and lasted nearly 15 years. Recruited to run a research program at Deaconess Hospital in Great Falls, he established the Laboratory for Experimental Medicine, which evolved into McLaughlin. The work there played an important role in the eventual development of successful protocols for organ transplantation in humans.
An internationally renowned scientist, he organized the first International Transplantation Conference; founded and edited the journal Transplantation for 30 years; and chaired the Transplantation Committee of the National Academy of Sciences from 1955 to 1967. During this time he also served as a Professor of Microbiology at Montana State University, Bozeman.
Eichwald continually looked to enhance the research capabilities around Great Falls. In a 1965 letter to Dr. Michael DeBakey, who had just been appointed by President Johnson to Chair the Commission on Heart Disease, Cancer and Stroke, he lobbied for a specialized medical research center in Montana, telling DeBakey of the doubling of their research capabilities with the recruitment of Jack Stimpfling from Bar Harbor, Maine and ending by noting, “it seems that we shall have lots of fun.”
His contributions to Montana extended beyond expanding research capabilities and attracting talent to Great Falls. One local 16-year-old high school student who volunteered to work in his pathology lab tells this story, ‘Dr Eichwald had made a fascinating discovery: if he grafted skin from a male mouse into a genetically identical inbred female mouse, the female would reject the graft. Why does this happen? He asked me.’
‘Even though I was a B+ student, I knew it had to be about either hormones or the Y chromosome. And because Eichwald gave me free rein to do my own research, I conducted one experiment that ruled out hormones and another that explored how pre-immunizing the females with male cells led to accelerated rejection. Discovering that it was the Y chromosome hooked me on medical science,’ says Irv Weissman, one of the leading stem cell scientists in the world today.
Eichwald returned to chair the Department of Pathology at the University of Utah, soon after McLaughlin opened its doors in 1967, but maintained strong ties to his colleagues in Montana until his passing in 2007.
Dr. Leroy Hood
Our new inductee this year is Dr. Leroy Hood, referred to by Fortune Magazine as the man who automated biology. Dr. Hood is recognized as one of the world’s leading scientists in molecularbiotechnology and genomics. He joins a long list of Montanans who have become significant figures in the biosciences industry globally.
Born in Missoula in 1938, Dr. Hood grew up and attended high school in Shelby. Both his father, an electrical engineer, and grandfather who managed the Beartooth Geologic Research Camp instilled in him a love for science. A high school science project won him the honor of being selected a finalist in the 1956 Westinghouse Science Talent Search. As he recalls, “This was a big deal. Shelby, Montana, had never had anything like that happen before. When I left to go to Washington, the high school band came down and played.”
Dr. Hood went on to receive an undergraduate degree in biology from California Institute of Technology (1960), an M.D. degree in Medicine from John Hopkins University in 1964 and a Ph.D. in Biochemistry from the California Institute of Technology in 1968. He has been the recipient of many internationally recognized awards.
What has distinguished Dr. Hood’s life as a visionary scientist has been driven by the conviction that the needs of frontier biology should drive the selection of technologies to be developed, and once a new technology is developed these technologies can revolutionize biology and medicine. He tells a story that when he attended Caltech in 1970, he told the chair, “I want to spend half my time doing technology development.”
After three years the chair came to me and said, “I advise you in the strongest possible terms to give this up.” Twenty years later, he told me that was because his senior faculty felt it was inappropriate to have engineering in a biology department. But, I went on and did it and it worked very well.
Dr. Hood’s research has focused on the study of molecular immunology, biotechnology, and genomics and in developing several instruments, which constitute the technological foundation for modern molecular biology and genomics. He has applied these technologies to diverse fields including immunology, neurobiology, cancer biology, molecular evolution and systems medicine. In addition, he has also played a role in founding numerous biotechnology companies, including Amgen, Applied Biosystems, Systemix, Darwin, Rosetta, and MacroGenics.
His vision in recent years has focused on what he refers to as P4 medicine. Over the next 15-20 years, he believes health care will move from its current largely reactive state to one that is predictive, that is personalized, that is eventually preventive and participatory.
In 2000, Dr. Hood co-founded the Institute for Systems Biology in Seattle, Washington to pioneer systems approaches to biology and medicine. He serves as President of the Institute and continues to pursue his interest in biology, medicine, technology, development, and computational biology.
Earlier this year Ohio State University approved a two-year collaboration with the Institute to carry the P4 idea forward. Ohio State provides a group of 55,000 insured employees and family members who could enroll in clinical trials, plus a group of physicians motivated to be on the front line of personalized medicine. The Institute for Systems Biology will contribute cutting-edge analysis of genes and proteins from samples so the physicians can gather useful information to monitor patients and guide their wellness.
The vision is that instead of waiting for clinical symptoms to appear, like a tumor spotted on an X-ray after it’s too late, physicians will eventually be able to see early warning signs of malignancies from a pinprick of blood analyzed by genomic instruments and software. If the genes and proteins are truly predictive, then doctors could take early action, or people could adjust their lifestyles accordingly to prevent disease.