Recorded: 15 Jan 2003
Well, I think in Joe there is the perfect mentor. And to this day I think Joe remains as my sort of model mentor. He was a person that taught me the fundamentals of doing research. He taught me that it can be a lot of fun. That you need to acquire a technical skill base from which to operate and you need to be brave. You need to be able to identify opportunities for investigation and pursue them and to throw your chest out and pretend in my case, pretend you are as good as the rest of them—worth waiting hopefully for an opportunity to arise that would allow you to be as good as the rest of them. So he was a wonderful mentor and a very good friend. I owe him a great deal.
I believe Joe as my first real mentor but maybe my second real mentor, but one that certainly taught me more than anyone else has taught me as a mentor. And I have always valued Joe’s wisdom and his preparedness to contribute to any problem that I’ve had in the now twenty-five years since I left Cold Spring Harbor. It’s actually even more than that. It’s probably thirty.
When I came to Australia I was a little bit afraid that I was on the wrong side of the world scientifically. And I communicated with Joe a lot. And one of these things that I had to do when I got here was to try and molecularly clone a hormone that regulates the production of blood cells and I was very nervous about doing this. I knew I had the technical capability of doing it but I felt that I needed to have Joe as a mentor just as I had undertaken similar magnitude problems at Cold Spring Harbor. And I communicated with Joe and he gave me some great advice and I still have those letters to this day where he told me the ten things that he would do if he were me. So this is now four years after I left Cold Spring Harbor and we would speak on the telephone but in those days more likely by letter and in hindsight the advice that Joe gave me was exactly the right advice. I took it and I’m pleased to say that that paid off. We were able—by taking Joe’s advice—to end up cloning the hormones that we were interested in and that was the beginning for me of a new venture into medical science.
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.