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Setting up a lab: Difficulties getting equipment


Setting up a lab: A grant from Eli Lilly and Company
Christian de Duve Scientist
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I had spent, I would say, 12 or 13 years preparing to actually do what I thought was going to be the major piece of research, the major discovery I was going to make: elucidate the mechanism of action of insulin. I started a very small group at the university. I was given a lab; I was given a budget that was the equivalent, at that time, of something like $200 a year, which wasn't much. So I had to go back again to St. Louis. When I was there, first of all, I was never able to have, with the Coris, the kind of conversation I wanted to have, so I never converted them to the right theory, although they eventually... of course, we all agreed, and they became great friends; there was no problem about that. But they were supported in their work by Lilly... Eli Lilly and Company, which were established not too far in Indianapolis, in Indiana, and had a big program of... of research support. They supported research on insulin in a number of labs and so, while I was in St. Louis, I... I went to visit the Lilly company, and I was a little embarrassed because, in fact, what I had demonstrated was that their insulin was no good. But, in fact, they took it very well. In fact, they were the first to actually crystallise glucagon and to establish its... its amino acid sequence, so... And what was more important, they actually gave me a grant. Which, for that time and for Belgium, was a huge amount of money: $5,000 a year.

Belgian biochemist Christian de Duve (1917-2013) was best known for his work on understanding and categorising subcellular organelles. He won the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1974 for his joint discovery of lysosomes, the subcellular organelles that digest macromolecules and deal with ingested bacteria.

Listeners: Peter Newmark

Peter Newmark has recently retired as Editorial Director of BioMed Central Ltd, the Open Access journal publisher. He obtained a D. Phil. from Oxford University and was originally a research biochemist at St Bartholomew's Hospital Medical School in London, but left research to become Biology Editor and then Deputy Editor of the journal Nature. He then became Managing Director of Current Biology Ltd, where he started a series of Current Opinion journals, and was founding Editor of the journal Current Biology. Subsequently he was Editorial Director for Elsevier Science London, before joining BioMed Central Ltd.

Tags: Eli Lilly and Company

Duration: 2 minutes, 40 seconds

Date story recorded: September 2005

Date story went live: 24 January 2008