Daily Archives: August 23, 2010

REPOST: Henry (Hank) Yamamura, 1940-2008

On the first day of class at UofA its a good time to re-commemorate one of the true giants in the history of pharmacology. Almost 2 years ago today Hank Yamamura passed away after a fight with lung cancer. Today, 2 PhD students started in our department funded by the Hank Yamamura Fellowship. The fellowship is a terrific way to remember a great scientist dedicated to understanding how drugs interact with receptors, training the next generation of scientists and mentoring junior faculty. He is one of my scientific heros and a dear friend and mentor. Here is what I had to say about Hank the day after he passed away.

Pharmacology has lost another giant. Hank Yamamura died last night after a long battle with cancer. It is hard to imagine that there is a pharmacologist alive today that is not familiar with the work of Dr. Yamamura. He is the author of nearly 500 papers, countless books and book chapters and a mentor to a generation of pharmacologists. Hank did his PhD at University of Washington and then headed to Sol Snyder’s lab for postdoctoral work. Hank played a major role in the original descriptions of muscarinic pharmacology while working with Snyder. In 1975 he moved to the University of Arizona where he eventual became a Regent’s Professor in the Department of Pharmacology. At the University of Arizona, Hank practically wrote the book on opioid receptor pharmacology with especially strong contributions to the area of delta-opioid peptides. Hank was an active and cherished member of the Department of Pharmacology from 1975 until the day of his passing.

I first learned about Hank Yamamura, like most pharmacology PhD students, from his book “Neurotransmitter Receptor Binding”. His contributions to cannabinoid pharmacology played an important role in my PhD work. For the past 9 months of my life I was lucky enough to work in the same Department with Hank. When I first arrived here he was one of the first to greet me. Hank made a point to come visit my office (which was in a separate building) at least once a week and he was always eager to hear about what we were working on. He read all of my grant applications and gave me incredibly detailed comments. He shared advice on navigating the varieties of channels at the University and we eventually developed a small collaboration (which will continue). In other words, in 9 short months Hank became one of the most important mentors I have ever had and became a dear friend. I am just one of hundreds of trainees and faculty who have been positively touched by Hank’s never-ending enthusiasm for science and boundless generosity. I think I can speak for the entire field in saying that we will all miss Hank.

Filing suit to block competition for federal funding?

This is almost unbelievable. Apparently a federal judge has blocked the Obama administration’s change to stem cell research policy.

There’s this gem of a paragraph at Forbes on the story:

A federal appeals court had ruled that two fellow plaintiffs – doctors who do research with adult stem cells, James Sherley of the Boston Biomedical Research Institute and Theresa Deisher of AVM Biotechnology – were entitled to sue over the new guidelines, prompting U.S. District Judge Royce Lamberth on Monday to reverse a decision he made in October when he dismissed the lawsuit.

Sherley and Deisher allege that the guidelines will result in increased competition for limited federal funding and will injure their ability to compete successfully for National Institutes of Health stem cell research money.

I almost fell over when I read that so went searching for confirmation and found this at USA Today:

Lamberth’s reversal follows a federal appeals court ruling that allowed two adult-stem-cell researchers to pursue a lawsuit, claiming that the new guidelines would increase competition for limited federal funds and that it violated federal law.

Lamberth said that the “injury” of increased competition that James Sherley of the Boston Biomedical Research Institute and Theresa Deisher of AVM Biotechnology would face “is not speculative. It is actual and imminent. Indeed, the guidelines threaten the very livelihood of plaintiffs Sherley and Deisher.”

I really don’t know what to say but this seems like a dangerous precedent to me from Judge Lamberth. There is obviously more to the ruling than the dangers of competition for NIH funding (seriously, I can’t believe this) as part of the ruling is based on anti stem cell interests but this NIH thing appears to have played a part. And, yes, if you think you recognize the name James Sherley from something else, you probably do.

UPDATE: In case you don’t go all the way down in the comments, look what DM found
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