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The NASA Astrobiology Institute - a fascinating place to work


Becoming director of the NASA Astrobiology Institute
Baruch Blumberg Physician
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They asked me to chair a… another seminar that we had on… on… genomics in space with Richard Roberts, a prominent molecular biologist, a Nobel laureate from the East Coast, and that was a really interesting phenomenon and we subsequently did another seminar too. Well, when I… I had to kind of write up the… write up the report on this, you know the one Roberts and I had chaired, and I did most of it because he was back east and I was still in California. So there was an exchange back and forth, and, you know, I had met the director of the Ames Research Center and some of the senior administrators, so I had a call from… from the director of Ames and he said he'd like to talk to me and I thought, well, it’s going to, you know, he wanted to discuss maybe another conference. I said, ‘Sure, I'd be happy to come down and see you’. He said, ‘No, Scott Hubbard and I will come down to see you’, and so Henry McDonald who was the director then, and Scott Hubbard came — another Scot, by the way, Henry McDonald — and we… and I met them in my office at Stanford which was in the old quadrangle, that's the historic center of Stanford, wonderful old buildings. And he said that they'd recently formed the NASA Astrobiology Institute and there was a temporary director, sort of a managing director, that was Dr… Dr Scott Hubbard, but they were looking for, in effect, the first director, and so I said, ‘Well, you know, give me… give me a week or two, I think I can come up with some names that would be suitable’. So Hank said, ‘No, we are thinking of you’. Well, I said, ‘Yes!’. Well, I had to, you know, consult at Fox Chase and so forth but I think they were happy to see me do something else. So I… so I took that job and… and it was absolutely great.

American research physician Baruch Blumberg (1925-2011) was co-recipient of the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1976 along with D Carleton Gajdusek for their work on the origins and spread of infectious viral diseases that led to the discovery of the hepatitis B virus. Blumberg’s work covered many areas including clinical research, epidemiology, virology, genetics and anthropology.

Listeners: Rebecca Blanchard

Dr Rebecca Blanchard is Director of Clinical Pharmacology at Merck & Co., Inc. in Upper Gwynedd, Pennsylvania. Her education includes a BSc in Pharmacy from Albany College of Pharmacy and a PhD in Pharmaceutical Chemistry from the University of Utah in Salt Lake City. While at Utah, she studied in the laboratories of Dr Raymond Galinsky and Dr Michael Franklin with an emphasis on drug metabolism pathways. After receiving her PhD, Dr Blanchard completed postdoctoral studies with Dr Richard Weinshilboum at the Mayo Clinic with a focus on human pharmacogenetics. While at Mayo, she cloned the human sulfotransferase gene SULT1A1 and identified and functionally characterized common genetic polymorphisms in the SULT1A1 gene. From 1998 to 2004 Dr Blanchard was an Assistant Professor at Fox Chase Cancer Center in Philadelphia. In 2005 she joined the Clinical Pharmacology Department at Merck & Co., Inc. where her work today continues in the early and late development of several novel drugs. At Merck, she has contributed as Clinical Pharmacology Representative on CGRP, Renin, Losartan, Lurasidone and TRPV1 programs and serves as chair of the TRPV1 development team. Dr Blanchard is also Co-chair of the Neurology Pharmacogenomics Working Group at Merck. Nationally, she has served the American Society of Clinical Pharmacology and Therapeutics on the Strategic Task Force and the Board of Directors. Dr Blanchard has also served on NIH study sections, and several Foundation Scientific Advisory Boards.

Tags: Stanford, Scott Hubbard, Henry McDonald

Duration: 2 minutes, 22 seconds

Date story recorded: September 2007

Date story went live: 28 September 2009