Gustavo W. Leone

Born: November 12, 1962 | Montevideo, UY

Gustavo Leone was born in Montevideo, Uruguay, and lived there until he was twelve when his family moved to Montréal, then to Calgary, seeking better opportunities. Leone entered the University of Calgary, where he did not do well his first year. He left school for a year and a half; upon his return, hw worked hard and did well, intending to become a doctor. After his third year he spent the summer working in Patrick Lee's lab. He loved that work so much he knew he was made for research. He remained in Lee's lab for his PhD, where he worked on reovirus and began work on cell cycles. Lee advised Leone to go to Duke University to work with Joseph Nevins. There he studied cell cycle with James DeGregori, who had lived in Uruguay for a year. The two hit it off and published an important paper before DeGregori left Duke. From Nevins, Leone says he learned mentoring and lab management as well as a great deal of science. Leone accepted an offer from Ohio State University. Changing technology brought the opportunity to study interrelationships among the E2F family members, which is where Leone sought a cure for some cancers, notably breast cancer. Seeing cancer as a complex disease needing collaboration and communication among people with differing approaches and goals, Leone established Tumor Microenvironment. He is also one of the heads of the OSU Comprehensive Cancer Center. He continues to find the study of chemistry and genetics of cancer tissue important and fascinating. 

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Interview Details

Interview no.: Oral History 0675
No. of pages: 8
Minutes: 245

Interview Sessions

David J. Caruso
23-24 October 2008
Ohio State University Medical Center, Columbus, Ohio

Abstract of Interview

Gustavo Leone was born in Montevideo, Uruguay, and lived there until he was twelve—he was the second of three children. His parents owned a deli, in which Leone worked too. Not being able to get ahead, the family moved to Montréal, Québec, Canada seeking better opportunities; a few years later, Leone's father died. From there the family moved to Calgary, Alberta. Leone played soccer much of the time, though he was also interested in marbles and street hockey. He got into fights regularly; he eventually began taking karate lessons. His only outstanding memory of school is that he loved high school biology. Leone entered the University of Calgary, where he did not do well his first year. He left school for a year and a half; he and his girlfriend bought a motorcycle and traveled through Canada, the United States, and Central America, eventually ending up in Uruguay. When they ran out of money they returned to Canada, where Leone began college anew. He worked hard and did well, intending to become a doctor. After his third year he spent the summer working in Patrick Lee's lab. He loved that work so much he knew he was made for research. He married his fellow-traveler girlfriend and remained in Lee's lab for his PhD, where he worked on reovirus and began work on cell cycles. He loved the work, sometimes even sleeping on a cot in the lab. Feeling that he had much to learn, he delayed finishing his PhD for a year, focusing his research on experiments with oligomerization, the results of which ended up conflicting with those of a Harvard University group. During these years he and his wife had two children. Lee advised Leone to go to Duke University to work with Joseph Nevins. There he studied cell cycle with James DeGregori, who had lived in Uruguay for a year. The two hit it off and published an important paper before DeGregori left Duke. From Nevins Leone says he learned mentoring and lab management as well as a great deal of science. Leone engaged in protracted negotiations for a faculty position with University of Calgary, but when Ohio State University made him an enthusiastic offer, he and his family packed up and moved to Columbus. Changing technology brought the opportunity to study interrelationships among the E2F family members, which is where Leone sought a cure for some cancers, notably breast cancer. Seeing cancer as a complex disease needing collaboration and communication among people with differing approaches and goals, Leone established Tumor Microenvironment. He is also one of the heads of the OSU Comprehensive Cancer Center. He continues to find the study of chemistry and genetics of cancer tissue important and fascinating. Leone concludes his interview with discussions of his administrative responsibilities; his publication history and methods; the connections between art and science; and the importance to him of the Pew Scholars Program in the Biomedical Sciences award. 

Education

Year Institution Degree Discipline
1988 University of Calgary BSc Biochemistry
1994 University of Calgary PhD Molecular Virology

Professional Experience

Duke University Medical Center

1994 to 1998
Postdoctorate, Genetics, Howard Hughes Medical Institute

Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center

1999 to 2009
Assistant Professor

Honors

Year(s) Award
1989 to 1994

Alberta Heritage Foundation for Medical Research Studentship

1994 to 1997

Medical Research Council of Canada Fellowship

1994 to 1997

Alberta Heritage Foundation for Medical Research Fellowship

1997 to 1999

Medical Research Council of Canada Centennial Fellowship

1999

The Robert M. and Barbara R. Bell Basic Science of Cancer Award

1999 to 2001

The V Foundation Scholar Award

2001 to 2005

Pew Scholar in the Biomedical Sciences

2004 to 2009

Scholar, Leukemia and Lymphoma Society

Table of Contents

Early Years
1

Born in Montevideo, Uruguay. Family deli. Moved to Montréal when abouttwelve. Father computer operator; mother seamstress. Family life. Move tosuburbs. Early death of father. Move to Calgary, Alberta. Playing soccer,marbles, street hockey; eventually karate. Loved high-school biology.

College Years
12

University of Calgary. Bad beginning. Left school after first year. Motorcycletrip with girlfriend. Traveled through West Coast ultimately to Uruguay. Moneygone, goes back to Canada and college. Works hard and does well. Third-yearsummer lab studying virology with Patrick Lee changes his intention to be doctor. Loves science and resolves to be researcher. Publishes while still anundergraduate. Marries.

Graduate School Years
26

Stays in Lee's lab at University of Calgary. Opens own karate school. Fatherstwo children. Keeps cot in lab so he can sleep there. Working on reovirus. Leehands-off as mentor, but still involved. Wife's jobs. Explains his slow writingprocess. Liked science so much and felt he wanted to learn much more, so stayeda year longer. Harvard University and oligomerization.

Postgraduate Years
38

On Lee's advice takes postdoc with Joseph Nevins at Duke University. Impressions of social and racial life in the South. Attending black Baptist church. Wife stays home with children; eventually goes back to school to studyarcheology. Takes up volleyball; sports with wife. Works on cell cycle withJames DeGregori, who had lived for a year in Uruguay. Discussion of mate. Nevins' mentorship. Learned management as well as science. Summary ofpostdoc accomplishments.

Faculty Years
50

Protracted discussions with University of Calgary. Enthusiastic offer from OhioState University. Changing technology changes plans for E2F work. No longerat bench, but always in lab, overseeing. Sees cancer as complex disease needingcollaboration. Helped establish Tumor Microenvironment. One of heads ofOSU Comprehensive Cancer Center. Discusses travel; teaching inside andoutside lab; reviewing and writing papers. Importance of Pew Scholars Programin the Biomedical Sciences grant. Respect for others' goals and approachesnecessary. Connections between art and science. Desire to conquer somecancers, notably breast cancer, by studying chemistry and genetics of cancertissue. Family life.

Index
78

About the Interviewer

David J. Caruso

David J. Caruso earned a BA in the history of science, medicine, and technology from Johns Hopkins University in 2001 and a PhD in science and technology studies from Cornell University in 2008. Caruso is the director of the Center for Oral History at the Science History Institute, president of Oral History in the Mid-Atlantic Region, and editor for the Oral History Review. In addition to overseeing all oral history research at the Science History Institute, he also holds an annual training institute that focuses on conducting interviews with scientists and engineers, he consults on various oral history projects, like at the San Diego Technology Archives, and is adjunct faculty at the University of Pennsylvania, teaching courses on the history of military medicine and technology and on oral history.  His current research interests are the discipline formation of biomedical science in 20th-century America and the organizational structures that have contributed to such formation.