The 2018 Rosalind Kornfeld Award for Lifetime Achievement in Glycobiology

Donald L. Jarvis1
Secretary, Society for Glycobiology, Department of Molecular Biology, University of Wyoming, Laramie, WY 82071 USA

The Society for Glycobiology is pleased to announce Dr. John Lowe as the recipient of the 2017 Rosalind Kornfeld Award for Lifetime Achievement in Glycobiology2. The Rosalind Kornfeld Award was established in 2008 to honor the distinguished scientific career and service to the Society by Dr. Rosalind Kornfeld. The award is given by the Society to scientists who have made significant contributions with an important impact on the field of Glycobiology over their professional lifetimes.

The 2018 Rosalind Kornfeld Award will be presented to Dr. John Lowe (Senior Director and Department Head of Research Pathology at Genentech, Inc.), who is retiring on September 30, 2018, after a remarkable career spanning both science and medicine. John was born and raised in Wyoming where he earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Mathematics at the University of Wyoming while also pursuing a pre-medicine curriculum. He then matriculated at the University of Utah College of Medicine, expecting to return to Wyoming to practice medicine. However, while in medical school, John became interested in the molecular mechanisms of disease, and decided to gain experience in laboratory research – in his spare time - studying RNA tumor viruses. This experience so interested John that he decided to pursue post-MD residency training in Laboratory Medicine, which afforded opportunities to combine clinical medicine with biomedical research. John entered the Laboratory Medicine residency training program at Barnes Hospital, which is affiliated with Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri. John’s training activities included research fellowships with Dr. Douglas Berg and Dr. Jeff Gordon. John then completed Clinical Pathology training with a focus on Transfusion Medicine and became a Board-Certified Clinical Pathologist, conferred by the American Board of Pathology. Next, John assumed a faculty position in Laboratory Medicine at Washington University where he served as Assistant Director of the Barnes Hospital Blood Bank while establishing a laboratory research program. His blood bank training exposed him to the glycan-based blood group antigens and their underlying genetics. This fascinated John and he sought to develop a research program to overcome the lack of a molecular understanding – at that time - of those genes, and the biology of the glycans. John chose to focus his medical training towards biomedical research and subsequently became an accomplished pioneer in the field of glycobiology.

The initial focus of John’s research was to “clone” mammalian genes encoding the glycosyltransferases that dictate expression of glycan structures. At that time (mid-1980’s), virtually nothing was known about the structure of those genes or the structures of the enzymes themselves. Since these enzymes are typically present in vanishingly small quantities, “traditional” cloning approaches requiring purified protein were problematic. John therefore sought to develop gene transfer methods to overcome this problem. He embarked on this effort at Washington University, but soon relocated to the faculty of the Pathology Department at the University of Michigan, where he was also awarded a coveted position as an Investigator of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. At Michigan, John was the Warner-Lambert/Parke-Davis Professor in Medicine, and a founding member of the Life Sciences Institute. In his 18 years at the University of Michigan, John and his colleagues successfully implemented a gene transfer strategy for mammalian glycosyltransferase gene cloning. These efforts provided entry into understanding the structures and functions of an a1-3 galactosyltransferase, a pair of a1-2 fucosyltransferases corresponding to the H and Secretor blood group loci, and a family of a1-3 fucosyltransferases. This included identifying the molecular basis for allelic variation at the H, Secretor, and Lewis blood group loci, the biochemical pathways of GDP-fucose formation and utilization, and the identification of essential roles for fucosylated glycans, including the selectin ligands, in leukocyte adhesion, lymphocyte trafficking and T lymphocyte development. John subsequently continued his research as Chair of Pathology at Case Western Reserve University Medical School/University Hospitals of Cleveland, and then as Senior Director of Pathology at Genentech, Inc.

John has served in numerous leadership roles in the course of conducting biomedical research, while holding clinical attending responsibilities in transfusion medicine, clinical immunology, and clinical chemistry. In these diverse roles, John has recruited and mentored numerous trainees, many of whom have gone on to become accomplished biomedical scientists and clinicians. John has consistently sought to ensure Institutions provided maximally effective support in the career development of trainees pursuing superlative diagnostic and treatment options for patients. John has co-authored more than 150 publications, has been supported by numerous NIH grants, and was a Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigator for more than 18 years. He was a regular member of the NIH Pathobiology Study Section, served on numerous National and International research review panels, and was President of the Society for Glycobiology in 1998. John has also served on Editorial Boards of the Journal of Biological Chemistry and several other journals, and as Associate Editor of the Journal of Clinical Investigation. He is co-inventor on 10 issued U.S. patents, and was a co-founder of 2 biotech startup firms. Perhaps most importantly, John has been an inspiring mentor, a kind and generous colleague, and an intellectual leader in the fields of glycobiology and pathology for decades, and is most highly deserving of the Rosalind Kornfeld Lifetime Achievement award.