Tim Tully on 1989 Drosophila Neurobiology Meeting
  Tim Tully     Biography    
Recorded: 01 Aug 2003

I came to the meeting in 1989 and I gave a talk. This is actually a funny story.

Alright. So, again in Jeff “Hall-ese”, this was 1989, early 1990s was when the nature of science was changing. In the 1970s and 1980s, there was no commercial value in science, so you just got a bunch of geeks having fun with their ideas and amazed that anyone would pay them to do things like that because there wasn’t any value to it aside from sheer, pure scientific discovery of thought and fact. But really with the infiltration, with the maturation of molecular biology as a technique and a field, and with the infiltration of that molecular biology into different fields, there slowly crept into the pure science a commercial value. As that commercial value crept in, what we called the fear and loathing amongst scientists crept into even the field of drosophila neurobiology.

At this meeting in 1989, there were definite, distinct people, colleagues, who were trying really hard to impress any crowd. One of those people in that meeting was Herman Stellar who was then at M.I.T. and was a young assistant professor. A very smart man [who] did great experiments. Of German descent, he spoke incredibly fast with a German accent. For the first time in my experience and certainly in several other experiences in the audience, in the course of this twenty minute, short talk he started using two projectors in order essentially to show twice as much data in half the amount of time. He was speaking at the speed of light, so fast with so much data being flashed right, left, right, left, right, left—that no one in the audience could follow a thing he was saying and really just started chuckling at the sheer exertion that this man was making to say everything he possibly could in twenty minutes.

He kind of became the butt of the joke for the rest of the meeting.

Tim Tully is a molecular geneticist, interested in finding the genetic and biological basis of memory in order to better identify pharmacological and behavioral treatments for memory loss. In 1981, he received his Ph.D. from the University of Illinois. Tully joined the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory staff in 1991 to work on discovering genes involved with memory. He became the St. Giles Foundation Professor of Neuroscience and led the Drosophila learning and memory program. In 1998 he founded Helicon Therapeutics, Inc., a development-stage biotechnology firm that works on new therapies for memory loss and other cognition disorders. In June, 2007, Tully left Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory to become Helicon's Acting Chief Scientific Officer, and assume a key role in the Michigan-based Dart Foundation as it expands its interest in funding neuroscience research.

His work on the transcriptional factor CREB gave way to the first experimental demonstration of enhanced memory formation in genetically engineered animals. Tully works to identify genes involved with long-term memory formation. Tully has determined that by the regulation of gene expression, new, long-term memories can be formed due to the growth of new synapses.