Jerry Adams on Bruce Stillman
  Jerry Adams     Biography    
Recorded: 15 Jan 2003

I’ve met him off and on over the years. Bruce [Stillman], of course as you know, is Australian. I didn’t know him though from his time in Australia, so I’ve only seen him at Cold Spring Harbor. I think he was probably inspired towards to take over as director of Cold Spring Harbor. He seems to have a wonderful vision to be able to think about very broad topics, which is quite remarkable.

Cold Spring Harbor is now much broader than its conception than it was when Watson was really directing it in the sense that now it’s not just cancer but it’s also neurobiology and other fields. So it’s gotten a lot broader. So Bruce had really had to really stretch himself to keep in touch with it. He also has a big role as I understand it in the sort of the selection of the topics for the symposia which means in itself is a big job because it means trying to decide when a field is mature enough. Just right to be appropriate for a symposium. And he’s also got to decide about the different conferences in a broad way that Cold Spring Harbor has to make sure that Cold Spring Harbor is—sort of has its finger on the pulse of the important areas of at least molecular science that’s being done around the world. So I think he‘s done an excellent job there. We actually had—when Gus Nossal retired we actually hoped that we might be able to tempt Bruce to become director here, but of course Cold Spring Harbor is a much bigger job. So that was probably always a forlorn hope, but that just shows the respect that we have for him.

Well, his science is wonderful. It’s not an area that I’m closely involved with, but DNA replication he’s regarded as probably the leading figure in DNA replication. I know because I’ve had occasion to see, to know that he’s been nominated for certain scientific prizes. So he’s obviously very highly thought of in his field and is clearly a leader whose managed somehow to continue to do leading edge science while he’s taken on this enormous task of being director of Cold Spring Harbor.

Jerry Adams, currently Professor and Joint Head of Molecular Genetics of Cancer Division of The Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research, is noted for his achievements in molecular biology, immunology and the molecular genetics of cancer. After completing his BSc in Chemistry at Emory University in 1962, he completed his Ph.D. at Harvard under James Watson. During this time, Adams and Mario Capecchi discovered the initiation mechanism for polypeptides. Adams earned his degree in 1967 and went on to do post-doctoral work at the MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology in Cambridge, England, where he met his wife, Suzanne Cory. They did further research in Geneva, and in 1972 joined The Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research in Australia.

Adams and his research team have made many major contributions to medical science. They were the first to clone mammalian genes in Australia and discovered: (i) that antibody genes encode to recombine in a myriad of ways to fight infection; (ii) the genetic mutation that leads to Burkitt’s lymphoma and (iii) the connection between apoptosis and cancer, while studying bcl-2 gene in follicular lymphoma (with David Vaux).

Adams is a Fellow of the Australian Academy of Science (1986), a Fellow of the Royal Society of London (1992), a Fellow of the Royal Society of Victoria (1997) and a member of the National Academy of Sciences.