Dr. Edward C. Kendall (1950 Nobel Prize in physiology or medicine) and Dr. Vernon R. Mattox were recognized for their pioneering studies on the adrenal hormone cortisone. The Kendall-Mattox Lectureship honors their careers and many contributions to Mayo Clinic and the scientific community.
Dr. Edward C. Kendall (1886-1972)
Dr. Kendall joined Mayo Clinic in 1914 as its first scientist dedicated to research in biochemistry. In the 1930s, he succeeded in the difficult task of isolating six hormones from the cortex of the adrenal glands. Preliminary testing suggested that one of those hormones, compound E, held promise for treating human diseases. The only way to produce sufficient quantities of compound E for clinical trials was to create a synthetic version of this complex compound. Dr. Kendall, Dr. Lewis Sarett of Merck & Co. Inc., and their colleagues met this challenge. Chemical synthesis was, however, a complicated and time-consuming procedure.
If a patient missed even one injection of compound E, the clinical trial would be compromised. The Merck laboratory in New Jersey would synthesize small amounts of compound E, which Dr. Kendall and his staff would prepare for administration to patients. On several occasions, Dr. Kendall met the flight from New Jersey at the Rochester airport to personally rush the precious material back to his laboratory so that it would be ready in time for the next injection. At the end of the clinical trials, the effects of compound E on the symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis were announced to the world, along with its new name: cortisone. The next year, Dr. Kendall shared the Nobel Prize in physiology or medicine.
Dr. Vernon R. Mattox (1914-2008)
Dr. Mattox was a distinguished research chemist who was born in Virginia and received his Ph.D. in organic chemistry from the University of Virginia. Dr. Mattox was recruited to Mayo Clinic in 1942.
Dr. Mattox joined Dr. Kendall's research team and began working on several projects including the chemical synthesis of cortisone. He successfully developed methods for several steps in this synthesis that had previously hindered Dr. Kendall's group from achieving bulk production of cortisone. Dr. Mattox's efforts hastened the chemical synthesis of sufficient cortisone for clinical trials led by Mayo colleagues Dr. Kendall and Dr. Philip S. Hench in their Nobel Prize-winning studies. The contributions of Dr. Mattox to these projects were deemed so significant that Dr. Kendall shared his Nobel Prize money with Dr. Mattox.
Dr. Mattox went on to discover a new steroid, aldosterone, in the early 1950s and published his work just one month after the laboratory awarded a Nobel Prize for this second discovery. Dr. Mattox was a country gentleman, full of humor and wit with a love of the arts. He was a kind person who gave much to his colleagues and to the Mayo Clinic Section of Biochemistry, later known as the Department of Endocrine Research, the Department of Cell Biology, and finally, the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology. Dr. Mattox retired in December 1981 and died Dec. 11, 2008.
Past scientists chosen to hold the Kendall-Mattox Lectureship include:
- Dr. Bert O'Malley (2007)
- Dr. Brian Chait (2008)
- Dr. Robert Benezra (2010)
- Dr. Eric Olson (2011)
- Dr. Mark Davis (2011)
- Dr. Witold Surewicz (2012)
- Dr. Peter K. Jackson (2015)
- Dr. Vivek Malhortra (2016)
The lectureship was established in honor of Dr. Albert Szent-Györgyi (winner of the 1937 Nobel Prize in physiology or medicine) for his pioneering studies on vitamin C and the citric acid cycle. Dr. Szent-Györgyi spent a year at Mayo Clinic.
Dr. Albert Szent-Györgyi (1893-1986)
Dr. Szent-Györgyi was born in Budapest, Hungary, in 1893 and finished his medical school training after military service in World War I. In the late 1920s, he worked at Cambridge University as a Rockefeller Foundation fellow and earned his Ph.D. in biochemistry for the isolation of hexuronic acid from adrenal gland tissue. He came to Mayo Clinic in 1929 and was able to isolate an impressive amount of hexuronic acid (1 ounce) from adrenal glands. Dr. Szent-Györgyi went on to become chair of the medical chemistry department at the University of Szeged, Hungary, in 1931, the same year Joseph Svirbely (University of Pittsburgh) tested a small sample of hexuronic acid and found that it was vitamin C (ascorbic acid).
Dr. Szent-Györgyi received the Nobel Prize in physiology or medicine for "his discoveries in connection with the biological combustion processes, with special reference to vitamin C and the catalysis of fumaric acid." Dr. Szent-Györgyi's studies on metabolism resulted in the definition of the pathway that later became known as the Krebs cycle. Krebs stated: "The only problem was that Szent-Györgyi's pathway was linear and not cyclic... and because of a single misstep in a chain of otherwise brilliant deductions, Albert was deprived of what could have been his greatest single achievement."
In 1947, Dr. Szent-Györgyi moved to Woods Hole, Massachusetts, and established the Szent-Györgyi Foundation for muscle research. He was elected a member of the National Academy of Sciences in 1956. During his last years of research, he developed theories about the connections between free radicals and cancer. Dr. Szent-Györgyi died in 1986, having published over 300 scientific articles and 11 books during his career.
Past scientists chosen to hold the Szent-Györgyi Lectureship include:
- Dr. W. James Nelson (2007)
- Dr. Pietro De Camilli (2009)
- Dr. Eberhard Voit (2010)
- Dr. Peter Agre (2011)
- Dr. Jerry Workman (2012)
- Dr. Maxence Nachury (2017)
- Dr. Anne Ridley (2019)
This lectureship was established in honor of Dr. Michael John Getz, a highly regarded mentor, teacher and researcher in the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology at Mayo Clinic. A generous donation from the Getz family supports this lectureship.
Dr. Michael John Getz (1944-1999)
Dr. Getz was recruited to the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology at Mayo Clinic in 1974 as a postdoctoral fellow and was promoted to associate consultant in 1975 and to consultant in 1977. In his early years at Mayo Clinic, Dr. Getz received multiple honors, including the Welch Foundation fellowship, European Molecular Biology Organization fellowship and a National Cancer Institute postdoctoral fellowship. Dr. Getz rose through the ranks to full professor, with service to Mayo Clinic Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences (formerly Mayo Graduate School) and Mayo Clinic School of Medicine (formerly Mayo Medical School), as a member and chair of the Biological Sciences Study Section at the National Institutes of Health, director of the advisory council of the Mayo Clinic Cancer Center, and program leader of its Cell Regulation Program.
Dr. Getz pioneered several areas of biomedical research in cell signaling, cardiovascular disease and the regulation of cancer cell growth. His work included the discovery and mechanisms of serum response factor, the actions of epidermal growth factor receptor (c-erbB1), and the role of tissue factor in transforming growth factor-beta and cell protease functions. Dr. Getz served as director of the National Cancer Institute multidisciplinary basic research training grant at Mayo Clinic, was funded by multiple NIH R01 grants, participated in several graduate school courses in Mayo Graduate School, and served as the director of education in the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology.
Dr. Getz was a jovial and fun-loving staff colleague who loved teaching and interacting with graduate students and encouraging their development into mature scientists. Dr. Getz died of cancer in 1999 at the age of 55, a great loss to the students, fellows and staff of Mayo Clinic.
Past scientists chosen to hold the Getz Lectureship include:
- Dr. Bruce Stillman (2007)
- Dr. Stephen Bell (2010)
- Dr. Barbara Panning (2012)
This lectureship was established in honor of Dr. Frank M. Rusnak, a highly regarded mentor, teacher and researcher in the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology at Mayo Clinic. A generous donation from the Rusnak family initiated this lectureship.
Dr. Frank M. Rusnak (1960-2002)
Dr. Frank M. Rusnak was born May 28, 1960, in Blue Island, Illinois. He attended school in Chicago and in the Twin Cities, where he graduated from Kellogg High School in St. Paul in 1978. He received his undergraduate and Ph.D. degrees from the University of Minnesota in 1982 and 1988, respectively. Dr. Rusnak did postdoctoral training in enzymology at Harvard University with Dr. Christopher Walsh. Dr. Rusnak was an enthusiastic and rigorous mentor, educator and researcher in metallobiochemistry. He took leadership roles in education, founding Mayo Graduate School's introductory biochemistry course, Chemical Principles of Biological Systems. His untimely death in 2002 resulted from an accident on his beloved farm.
Past scientists chosen to hold the Rusnak Lectureship include:
- Dr. Richard Wolfenden (2007)
- Dr. Joan Steiz (2008)
- Dr. Don Cleveland (2009)
- Dr. Boris Martinac (2010)
- Dr. Charles Esmon (2011)
- Dr. Michael Botchan (2012)