Bert W. O’Malley – 2007 National Medal of Science

My life has been pretty much dedicated
to discovery science, that is how the cell works and how the body works. It doesn’t do anything without hormones so understanding hormones is the secret to understanding all of physiology. It’s hard to imagine that in the 1960’s we still didn’t know exactly what
hormones did in our bodies. I think it gives us a different
perspective. If we understand how the cell works in normal regulation and pathways then we understand better than other people
how to fix it. Tucked away in an NIH lab, Bert O’Malley’s fascination with finding the answers was about to launch the new field
molecular endocrinology. One of our biggest achievements was in the 1970’s when we figured out the mechanism by
which hormones function to activate genes turned
the function of genes on and make new RNA’s and proteins. In those days it was
very controversial. For 35 years O’Malley has expanded on his work while
building the country’s first major cell biology department at
Baylor College of Medicine. I came here I guess because it was a
little bit of a frontier operation in science at the
time. A developing medical school I thought it had a lot of opportunities and
that’s what a scientist really enjoys. His discoveries in the mid 90’s of the
co-activator enzymes that switch genes on and off gave us a
missing link for approaches to treating illness and
understanding who we are at the cellular level. I look forward, in the next decade to great applications to clinical diseases especially cancer,
reproductive diseases, inflammatory disorders, genetic illnesses,
mental illnesses all of which are intimately involved with hormones

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