Recorded: 15 Jan 2003
Well, it was really a stroke of luck as is often the case in professional life. My recollection of that is that Bob Pollack was a senior scientist at Cold Spring Harbor in the early ‘70s and probably before that. My supervisor—my Ph.D supervisor at that time, James MacDougall had given at talk at a Cold Spring Harbor Symposium. And when Bob Pollack announced that he was going to leave Cold Spring Harbor Lab they needed a new head of cell biology. And they needed to do it pretty quickly because my recollection is that they were facing a pretty significant review, NIH review, at the time.
This would be about 1975. And Jim Watson invited Jim MacDougall, my supervisor, to take up the position of head of that new department. And Jim MacDougall, in fact, asked me if I would like to go along to Cold Spring Harbor with him and it took me about two femtoseconds to make that decision and say yes. And so I went with him to Cold Spring Harbor. It was, in fact, my second visit. I had spent the previous summer there working in Joe Sambrook’s lab.
I was a PhD student as it happens, but I was a visiting sort of junior scientist and this was, of course, at the time of the dawning of molecular biology really; the discovery of restriction enzymes and the exploitation of those enzymes. And this was an important part of Joe Sambrook’s tumor virus program. This was the time when people were trying to find out which segments of the viral chromosome were responsible for oncogenic transformation. And so I went along there with a friend of mine, Phillip Gallimore, and we took along some of the cell lines that we had generated transformed by viruses, and Joe Sambrook and Phil Sharp at that time were interested in discovering which of the genes of the virus were in fact responsible for the transformation. And so I spent three very happy and productive months at Cold Spring Harbor and met people that to this day remain as good friends, not the least Joe Sambrook, and had a wonderful time. And I was so taken with that three months that when the opportunity came my way to go and spend a period of postdoctoral years there I leapt the opportunity.
Ashley Dunn is currently a Senior Consulting Scientist and member of the Scientific Advisory Board at the Cryptome Pharmaceuticals Ltd., an Australian biotech company. He also serves on Australia’s Gene Technology Advisory Committee. He is the former Head of Molecular Biology in the Melbourne Branch of the Ludwig Institute for Cancer Research.
He came to Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory in 1976 to work with Joe Sambrook as a postdoctoral fellow and eventually became a junior faculty member.
His research has been concentrated on mammalian growth factors and the regulators responsible for the production of white blood cells in mice and men. He co-invented a mammalian blood cell regulator (GM-CSF), and his lab was the one of the first to establish gene targeting in the development of human diseases such as cancer.