OHSU

Hildegard Lamfrom, Ph.D.

Hildegard Lamfrom, Ph.D. – the late sister of Gert Boyle – will be remembered as a brilliant, influential researcher and devoted mentor of renowned scientists, including OHSU's Brian Druker, M.D.

Hildegard Lamfrom, Ph.D.The Boyle family understands the role of science in advancing human health.

For Gert Boyle, chairman of Columbia Sportswear, that realization came early in life, as she watched her older sister blossom into a talented scientist during a time when women were discouraged from such pursuits. For Tim Boyle, Columbia's president and CEO, it was growing up with an aunt who was on a first-name basis with some of the luminaries in his science textbooks. That sister and aunt was Hildegard Lamfrom, Ph.D., who quietly became one of the 20th century's most influential and accomplished women in the emerging field of molecular biology during an exceptional career spanning four decades.

Hildegard crossed paths with nearly a dozen Nobel laureates, including the men who cracked the DNA code, during an extremely exciting time in molecular biology. She worked in Cambridge with Francis Crick, she worked at Cal Tech under Linus Pauling. She introduced physicist Richard Feynman to the genetics of the pea. She broke new ground of her own in the field of protein synthesis. Dr. Lamfrom was also a passionate mentor, encouraging many renowned scientists – including OHSU's own Brian Druker, M.D. – to reach new heights.

Her death from a brain tumor at age 62 ended her career in 1984, but did not end her ability to influence up and coming researchers. Thanks to Gert Boyle and Tim and Mary Boyle, OHSU has established the Hildegard Lamfrom Endowed Chair in Basic Science in association with the OHSU Knight Cancer Institute. The endowed support of this chair will enable OHSU to attract a top-caliber researcher to its faculty, and to advance vital cancer research. That researcher, and those they in turn influence, will uphold Hildegard's legacy of devotion to science, passion for mentoring and deep love of the quest for knowledge.

"Hildegard was a selfless contributor to many significant teams tackling the most vexing genetic puzzles known to science," said Tim Boyle on behalf of his family. "She ultimately succumbed to cancer, which she believed someday would be curable. She would have wanted to be remembered as providing fanatically dedicated support to basic science, focused on the most significant health issues in the world."

Brian Druker's story underscores the powerful ripple effect of strong scientific mentoring. Lamfrom's mentoring helped convince Druker to broaden his focus from pure laboratory science to patient care. From this development followed the career experiences that led to his development of the breakthrough anticancer compound Gleevec. This medicine has saved hundreds of thousands of patients from chronic myeloid leukemia and other cancers, and has earned Druker the 2009 Lasker-DeBakey Clinical Medical Research Award, widely regarded as the American equivalent to the Nobel Prize.

"As someone who was held in such high regard by the top scientists of her time, Hildegard made an incredible impact on my life and career," said Druker. "I am so pleased that OHSU will be helping to preserve her legacy."

"We are so proud and pleased that the Boyle family saw fit to honor Hildegard's legacy here at OHSU," said OHSU President Joseph Robertson, M.D., M.B.A. "Her spirit is everywhere you look on this campus, everywhere you see someone investing their absolute all into a personal quest for knowledge. The future of science depends on our ability to instill that spirit in every OHSU scientist and student. That's why I am so grateful to the Boyles for the opportunity to preserve Dr. Lamfrom's legacy here at OHSU."