Ashley Dunn on John Cairns
  Ashley Dunn     Biography    
Recorded: 15 Jan 2003

John Cairns was an icon when I was a postdoc at Cold Spring Harbor. I met him several times during visits there to do meetings and symposia of one sort or another. I have a feeling that he wouldn’t remember me at all at the time because I was never heard of in those days. But John Cairns I was aware of his reputation and the contributions that he had made. And I haven’t seen John for many, many years until he visited Australia quite recently at the beginning of 2003. Actually late 2002.

John gave a very nice talk at Cold Spring Harbor and I was quite taken by the fact that he was giving a talk and using information that he had not necessarily generated himself but I loved the way that he said that one of the great virtues—one of the great advantages of reaching late sixties, early seventies or whatever it is that John is, is that you can actually talk about data that you haven’t generated with your own hands that’s come from someone else’s pipette and not yours.

He gave a lovely talk here and I thought, “well there is a life after you finished doing experiments”. If you’ve managed to do enough in your time and you’re still lucky enough to be invited to give talks, you actually don’t need to use the liquid that comes from your own pipette but rather from someone else’s. And he gave a very nice talk, and he’s a very thoughtful guy. I think that for people that get into their very senior years that have an iconic status within science, its great to hear these people and realize what they have accomplished in their lives and they’re still able in their later years to give great talks and show insights into the various things that interest them scientifically.

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.