Paul J. Anderson

Born: November 25, 1956 | Syracuse, NY, US

Paul J.  Anderson discovered a love of science as a child, which he nurtured through his degree in biology from the State University of New York, Stony Brook.  Bernard Dudock inspired Anderson to work in William Bauer’s labs, where he was encouraged to design experiments and met Francis Crick. Anderson entered an MD/PhD program at New York University. He specialized in rheumatology for his clinical years at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and worked at Stuart F.  Schlossman’s lab at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. He helped found the biotechnology company Apoptosis Technology. Anderson believes we will continue to learn more about the molecular mechanisms of apoptosis, which will allow us to interfere in the molecular cell death and to control diseases like cancer or organ rejection. 

The information listed below is current as of the date the transcript was finalized.

			

Interview Details

Interview no.: Oral History 0424
No. of pages: 98
Minutes: 500

Interview Sessions

Paul J. Anderson
18-19 and 22 May 1995
Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, Boston, Massachusetts

Abstract of Interview

Paul J.  Anderson, the oldest of four children, was born in 1954; he grew up in a suburb of Syracuse, New York. His father was a school teacher and administrator, his mother a housewife. He discovered a love of science when he was about 10 years old, a love he nurtured through his BS degree in biology from the State University of New York (SUNY), Stony Brook in 1978.  Biochemistry professor Bernard Dudock inspired Anderson to work part time in William Bauer’s labs, where he was encouraged to design his own experiments, an unusual practice for undergraduates. At that time Bauer was working on DNA, and in his labs Anderson met Francis Crick. Anderson also was able to publish some articles about his work in those labs.
 He then entered a joint MD/PhD program at New York University (NYU), receiving his MD in 1983 and his PhD in 1984. Interested in immunology, he specialized in rheumatology for his two clinical years at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston.   During this period he became involved in the excitement of working on interferon and interferon receptors.  He also began working at Stuart F.  Schlossman’s lab at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, where work was being done on different subpopulations of T lymphocytes in the peripheral blood.   
Schlossman became a mentor to Anderson, whose biochemical background and focus on immunology led him to develop an assay to identify intracellular antigens. This involved developing a cytometric flow assay to screen for monoclonal antibodies. Anderson observed that natural killer cells express zeta, an antibody that reacts with cytotoxic lymphocytes. He tracked the antigen causing transplant rejection to cytotoxic granules, reinforcing the theory that the antibody could recognize a toxic molecule. It became clear that the full-length RNA-binding protein is involved somehow in signaling apoptotic death in cytotoxic lymphocyte target cells, and we now know in all cells. He helped found the biotechnology company Apoptosis Technology as a subsidiary of Immunogen; he has several patents.
Anderson finds science unpredictable when he enters new areas; this is exciting to him and is one of the main reasons he continues to love research science. He believes we will continue to learn more about the molecular mechanisms of apoptosis, which will allow us to interfere in the molecular cell death and thereby to control or cure various diseases and health problems like cancer or organ rejection.
 

Education

Year Institution Degree Discipline
1978 State University of New York at Stony Brook BS Biology
1983 New York University PhD Biochemistry
1984 New York University MD

Professional Experience

Brigham and Women’s Hospital

1984 to 1985
Intern
1985 to 1986
Resident
1986 to 1990
Clinical and Research Fellow

Harvard Medical School

1988 to 1990
Instructor
1990 to 1994
Assistant Professor
1994 to 1997
Associate Professor

Dana-Farber Cancer Institute

1986 to 1990
Clinical and Research Fellow

Honors

Year(s) Award
1978

Phi Beta Kappa

1978

Medical Scientist Training Program Fellowship

1980

Woods Hole Marine Biological Laboratory Prize

1981

New York Arthritis Foundation Summer Fellowship

1984

Alpha Omega Alpha

1987

Loeb Award, Arthritis Foundation

1990 to 1994

Pew Scholar in the Biomedical Sciences

1990

Cancer Research Institute Investigator Award

1994

Distinguished Alumnus Award, State University of New York at
Stony Brook

1995

Leukemia Scholar Award

Table of Contents

Childhood and Youth
1

Grew up in Syracuse, NY. Had nurturing, happy childhood; three siblings; engaged in casual childhood activities. Early interest in science. Expectations of college; entered SUNY Stony Brook; eyes opened to provinciality of childhood. Worked in William Bauer's lab, given much autonomy. Studies nicking-closing enzyme that opens supercoiled DNA.

College and Graduate School
15

Discovered that caotropic salt solution alters the winding of DNA. Anderson published his first scientific paper. Felt that opportunities for scientific discovery are always present. Entered the New York University MD/PhD. program. Enjoyed life in Manhattan. Met Cathryn Nagler, now his wife. Her scientific background and research. The decreasing usefulness of the combined MD/PhD degree. Spent summers in the Gerald Weissmann lab. at Woods Hole Marine Biological Laboratory. Excited by studying interferon in the Jan Vilek lab, where he worked on interferon receptors. Performed internship and residency in internal medicine at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston, where he specialized in rheumatology.

Research Career
31

Entered Stuart F. Schlossman's lab at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. Schlossman defined different subpopulations of T lymphocytes in the peripheral blood and characterized the T cell receptor complex. Monoclonal antibody technology. Flow cytometry technology. Schlossman as mentor. Description of work pace of modern scientific research. Life in the Boston region. Teaching efforts with students and postdocs. Inevitability of scientific progress. Anderson's background in Biochemistry. His continued focus on immunology. Schlossman students who have become leaders in the field. Schlossman's management style. Schlossman convened congresses to characterize antibody reagents and provide them with cluster designations. Anderson developed an assay to identify intracellular antigens and studied the role of the zeta subunit in the immune response. Observed that natural killer cells also express zeta. Discovered an antibody that reacts with cytotoxic lymphocytes and tracked the antigen causing transplant rejection to cytotoxic granules.

Explanation of his Research
52

Identified RNA-binding proteins. Explored the relationship between TIA-1 and apoptosis. How apoptosis differs from necrosis. Searched for genes that trigger apoptosis. Role of the Fas protein in apoptosis. How phosphorylation affects the activity of TIA-1. The unpredictable nature of research. Collaborations with Rolf Kiessling and Michel Streuli. Anderson's patents. Founded the biotechnology company Apoptosis Technology as a subsidiary of Immunogen; his role in the company. Role of the immune system in fighting cancer. Risks involved in chemotherapy and an accidental patient death at Dana-Farber. More on process of providing cluster designations for antibodies. Opportunities in AIDS research. Difficulty of finding a means of inserting antibodies into cells without killing the cells. Obtaining human cells from peripheral blood or leukophoresis residues. More on Anderson's patents. More on Apoptosis Technology. Funding of Anderson's lab.

Average Day, General Ruminations
77

Recruiting personnel for his lab. Paperwork and Administration. Anderson's clinical practice. Changes in the Harvard Medical School curriculum. Training of Ph.D. 's in the basic sciences. Serving on study sections. Reviewing papers for scientific journals. The rejection and frustration encountered by scientists. Submitting papers for review. Recent discoveries in immunology and rheumatology. Women and minorities in science. Cathryn Nagler-Anderson's lab. Juggling family and career. Radiation and radiation safety in molecular biological research. Need for scientists to question their assumptions. Excitement of scientific research.

Index
95

About the Interviewer

Steven J. Novak