Tim Tully on Developing the Neuroscience Program
  Tim Tully     Biography    
Recorded: 01 Aug 2003

In the very first few months when I interacted here, Jim was actively involved in the search for neuroscientists. Shortly thereafter was when Bruce became, I guess, assistant director then for the first couple of years. He formally continued this job search for the neuro positions. It was really in the first few months that I interacted with Jim a bit more than usual. He was trying to woo someone here for a job, so he was extremely cordial. We all know how cordial he can be when he wants to be. He can be very persuasive. He considered it essentially a done deal that I move to Cold Spring Harbor Lab. Being a guy who went to college in the 1970’s and married a woman who went to college in the 1970’s, I rightfully went back to Brandeis and said, Nance, amazingly, I’ve got this job offer from Cold Spring Harbor Lab. It looks like a really nice place. I think you should come down and see it. A few weeks later, Nance came down to the island from Boston. Essentially, as soon as she walked around the campus and looked at this place, she looked at me and said, I can’t believe that you would even ask me. Of course, you should take this job, it’s a no brainier. I think I did the right thing by asking her anyway, if you want my opinion.

Anyway, that’s sort of how I knew Jim originally. He obviously has always been an extremely strong supporter of neuroscience. It was his idea to start this program for reasons that are probably obvious. And he’s just always been a champion and very supportive of me and the rest of the neuroscience program.

Jim Watson, Personality and Influence

In my interactions with him, I’ve also come to respect the fact that he has great vision. He doesn’t sweat the details. He sees something and how it can evolve as a field or as a process, and he just goes for it. He doesn’t worry about the details and the little things that naturally happen and screw up along the way. He has faith in the big picture. I haven’t met very many people like that in science. And I’ve come to respect that and to appreciate it as a scientist. To some degree, some of the decisions that I’ve made in trying to go for what I think is important in science comes from watching him do it and realizing that it can be done and if you stick to what you think is the right idea and work hard enough, you might actually prove it someday.

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.