Our first speaker of the year was Luke Timmerman, biographer of Lee Hood. Many biographers have to rely on archives, old newspapers, relatives, and much more. Others have the advantage of a living and compliant subject for firsthand information. Luke Timmerman, in his biography of Lee Hood, entitled “Hood“, enjoyed the latter situation.
Hood’s evolution stemmed from an association with a high school teacher, a Caltech alumnus, who, seeing potential, steered the young man to that institution. Hood soon made his name in Immunology and in genetics as applied to it. This entailed the DNA sequence and the shuffling of genes to evolve elements of the immune system. Thus arose the Biotech industry, investors therein, and AMGEN, the leading company in the field. Hood sat atop an empire. However, he clashed with the CalTech administration and his colleagues. CalTech discontinued genome research. Hood was ousted.
His next opportunity came at UW, to which he was recruited by Roger Perlmutter and financed by Bill Gates. In the beginning, it was rosy. Hood brought CalTech recruits, $, prominence to UW. But ultimately he ran into difficulties. The issue was that of Systems Biology, a collaboration with other disciplines. UW did not go for this. He headed the Genome Department, but encountered managerial issues. He was again out on his own.
His contributions to biology are recognized worldwide. His many awards have not included the Nobel Prize. This, according to the author, is tragic.