Dennis A. Carson
The information listed below is current as of the date the transcript was finalized.
Abstract of Interview
Dennis A. Carson begins the interview with a discussion about growing up in the Atomic Age, moving between the boroughs of New York City. After showing an early interest in chemistry, Carson attended Stuyvesant High School, a well-known school with a science-based curriculum. Upon graduating in 1962, Carson decided to attend Haverford College, a Quaker school outside of Philadelphia, hoping to balance his science background with a degree in the liberal arts. While there, he received a research grant from Smith, Kline, and French to study trichimonas and taught in Haverford's laboratories. He earned a BA in history and returned to New York City to attend Columbia University's medical school, where he worked in immunologist Elliott F. Osserman's lab experimenting with tissue cultures. After earning his MD, Carson completed his internship and residency in California before joining the National Institutes of Health's (NIH) Associate Training Program to defer the Vietnam War draft. While at the NIH, Carson worked under Henry Metzger radiolabeling immunoglobulins and assigning affinity labels. In 1974, Carson left to work in Jay Seegmiller's lab at the University of California, San Diego (UCSD). There, his research centered around ADA deficiency's effect on the immune system. Carson continued this research as an assistant member of the Scripps Clinic and Research Foundation. He spent his time developing, synthesizing, manufacturing, and running trials for Leustatin, a drug for hairy cell leukemia that was approved in 1993. While at Scripps, Carson co-founded Vical a biotech company that develops DNA vaccines. Over the next decade, he founded other drug-development companies such as Triangle Pharmaceuticals, Dynamax Inc., and Salmedix. When Jay Seegmiller retired from UCSD's Sam and Rose Stein Institute for Research on Aging in 1990, Carson took his place as director—splitting his time between research and fund-raising. He left in 2003 to head Moores UCSD Cancer Research Center, where he has two drugs in development. Next, Carson describes the numerous awards and appointments he has received, including nomination to the National Academy of Sciences, a rare feat for a doctor. Carson concludes the interview by discussing San Diego's biotech community and his predictions and concerns for its future.
University of California, San Diego
National Institutes of Health
Scripps Research Institute
University of California, San Diego Medical Center
Phi Beta Kappa
Alpha Omega Alpha
Lee C. Howley, Sr., Prize for Arthritis Research
Elected member, American Academy of Arts and Sciences
ScD (Honorary), University of Aix-Marseille
International Rheumatology Award, Japan Rheumatism Association
Mayo-Soley Award, Western Association of Physicians
Elected member, National Academy of Sciences
American Association for Cancer Research-Bruce F. Cain Memorial Award
Member, Institute of Medicine
Chester Stock Award, Memorial Sloan-Kittering Cancer Center
BIOCOM Life Sciences Heritage Award, BIOCOM and the Chemical Heritage Foundation
Table of Contents
Growing up in New York. Early interest in science. Brother and parents. Attending Stuyvesant High School. Working in the New York Public Library's patent office.
Studying history at Haverford College. Lab work at the Smith, Kline, and French factory. Medical school at Columbia University. Working with Elliott F. Osserman on methods to create tissue cultures.
University of California, San Diego (UCSD) for internship and residency. Working at the Salk Institute under Martin G. Weigert, radiolabeling immunoglobulins. Two-year commitment to National Institutes of Health, studying IgE receptors in Henry Metzger's lab. Return to UCSD for post-doc work with Jarvis E. Seegmiller on ADA deficiencies. Fellowships to research rheumatism and leukemia lymphoma.
Working with Ernest Beutler while developing 2-CdA. Hairy cell leukemia trials. Thoughts on drug development. Founding Vical with friend Karl Y. Hostetler. Naked DNA research.
Background on the company. Lab research and endowment program. Organized research units.
History of the Center. Comprehensive cancer centers. Importance of interdisciplinary research units.
Triangle Pharmaceuticals. Dynavax Technologies. Salmedix, Inc. The Orphan Drug Act.
Election to the National Academy of Sciences. Receiving the Arthritis Foundation Lee C. Howley, Sr. , prize, the American Association Cancer Research Bruce Kane Memorial Award, and the BIOCOM Life Sciences Award. Importance of educational programs.
San Diego biotech community. Government regulation and the Sarbanes-Oxley Act. Influencing policy.
About the Interviewer
Ted Everson, the director of clinical communications at Vital Issues in Medicine (VIM), a medical education company, earned a PhD in history and philosophy of science and technology from the University of Toronto and an MS in medical genetics from the University of British Columbia. During his tenure at CHF he founded the biotechnology program, which included focused scholarship on industry development. He is the author of The Gene: A Historical Perspective (2007), “Genetic Engineering Methods” in The Encyclopedia of Twentieth Century Technology (2004), and “Genetics and Molecular Biology” in History of the Exact Sciences and Mathematics (2002).