Maurice "Moishe" Bessman, renowned biochemical enzymologist and 50-year member of the Department of Biology in the Krieger School of Arts and Sciences, died Nov. 12, 2021. He was 93. Admired for his intellect, independence, teaching and mentoring, and overall class, Bessman focused his research on biochemistry, enzymology, synthesis of nucleic acid derivatives, and proteomics. Though he retired in 2008 as research professor and professor emeritus, he continued his research, studying the nudix hydrolase family of enzymes—a large, widely distributed class of proteins that his team discovered had a common signature sequence. The team systematically cloned members of the enzyme family in an effort to identify their function.
Dr. Walter (Walt) Fast, Division Head and Professor of Chemical Biology & Medicinal Chemistry, William I. Dismukes Fellow and Southwestern Drug Corporation Centennial Endowed Fellow in Pharmacy, passed away on the morning December 4, 2023, surrounded by his loving family. Walt studied numerous aspects of enzyme chemistry as it relates to disease and human physiology. His laboratory had emphases in the areas of antibiotic resistance mechanisms, bacterial signaling and development of covalent mechanism-based inhibitors.
Source: University of Texas at Austin College of Pharmacy
Heinz G. Floss, a world-renowned biosynthetic chemist and emeritus professor of chemistry at the University of Washington, passed away at his home in Bellevue, Washington, on December 19, 2022. He was a highly recognized and esteemed scientist, an eminent personality and an outstanding educator. Floss’s work ingeniously illuminated how plants and microbes construct natural chemicals--many of which are important for human health. Eventually this work helped pave the way to the genetic engineering and production of complex chemicals for the betterment of humankind. His lab was renowned for employing the latest technology of the time in unravelling the metabolic pathways of natural product biosynthesis. This pioneering spirit was cultivated by Floss who trained nearly 150 Ph.D. and postdoc scientists, many of whom became university professors and leaders in industry carrying on his scientific legacy.
It is with great sadness that the family of Warren Candler Jones announce his unexpected passing on September 15, 2023. Warren was a devoted husband, father, and grandfather, an avid tennis player, and an enthusiastic lover of nature. Originally from Mississippi, Warren earned a Ph.D. in biochemistry from the University of North Carolina, from which he launched a long career in scientific research. Warren worked more than 30 years and was a senior administrator in the National Institute of General Medical Sciences, National Institutes of Health where he pursued the advancement of enzyme science and knowledge, occasionally advising Congress on health and science matters. He continued to advocate for basic science in his retirement.
Dexter Northrop was a graduate of Owatonna High School, class of 1958. In 1962 Dexter received his bachelor’s degree in chemistry from St. Olaf College where he enjoyed playing his trombone and was known for his perfect pitch. In 1969 he received a PhD in Biochemistry from Case Western Reserve University (Ohio). For two years he was an American Cancer Society Postdoctoral Research Fellow, first at Harvard and then at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. In 1971 he joined the faculty at the School of Pharmacy in Wisconsin where he taught biochemistry. His research focused on enzyme kinetics and reaction mechanisms. He spoke internationally in his field.
Christopher T. Walsh, the internationally respected and unconventional enzymologist who revolutionized the study of antibiotics, including antibiotic resistance and the natural production by living organisms of molecules that can become new medicines, died on Jan. 10, at the age of 79, following a fall. His team’s elucidation of the pathway by which bacteria develop resistance to vancomycin, featuring five required genes, opened the door to developing new families of antibiotics that combat resistant bacterial strains. Among those who stand to benefit are cancer patients who contract life‐threatening infections during chemotherapy. Other notable discoveries included identifying so-called suicide substrates that cause enzymes to self-destruct; revealing how key classes of molecules work and how their structures determine their functions; and gaining insights into siderophores — structures in bacteria that leach iron from hosts and offer a way to thwart infections by E. coli, Salmonella, and bacteria that cause tuberculosis, pneumonia, cholera, plague, and other illnesses.
Charles Haddon Williams, Jr, was born June 29, 1932 in Washington, D.C., the only child of Charles Haddon Williams and Kathryne Passailaigue Williams. He was raised in Washington and earned a B.S. from the University of Maryland and a PhD in Biochemistry from Duke University. While doing post-doctoral work in Sheffield, UK, he met his wife of 61 years, Angela Murison (Small) Williams. Together they settled in Ann Arbor, MI where Charles worked for the V.A. doing basic research as well as serving as a Professor of Biochemistry at the University of Michigan. Charles was devoted to his work on enzymes that contain vitamin B2 and to Science in general. He studied enzymes containing versions of vitamin B2 that are involved with crucial functions in maintaining protein structure, providing reducing equivalents for the production of the bases in DNA, and for the function of mitochondria in cells. He collaborated with scientists from England, Germany, and Italy.