This lecture is dedicated to the memory of Donald “Buzz” Wassenberg, a Master’s degree candidate at San Diego State University at the time of his death in 1986. He died of cystic fibrosis at the age of 26. Buzz was an outstanding individual, both personally and professionally. He displayed an enthusiasm about life that was not dampened by the severe medical problems he faced. His approach to science was innovative and he generated an excitement regarding new experimental ideas and results.
Buzz had completed his laboratory research in Dr. Sandy Bernstein’s laboratory and had begun writing his thesis prior to his death. SDSU awarded his Master’s degree posthumously at the spring, 1987 graduation, where Dr. Bernstein presented the completed thesis and the degree to Buzz’s parents. This research was subsequently published in the Journal of Biological Chemistry. To honor his memory and to provide inspiration to his peers and colleagues, we have begun an endowment fund. This allows us to bring top investigators to SDSU to present recent advances in genetic disease research.
Dr. Paul Negulescu received both his B.S. and Ph.D. from U.C. Berkeley in physiology and carried out post-doctoral work at U.C. Berkeley and U.C. Irvine in the areas of biophysics and immunology. He is responsible for leading the Vertex San Diego research site, which employs approximately 220 people. Under his leadership, the San Diego site has produced multiple novel drug candidates which have become approved medicines. One of these, Kalydeco, was approved in January 2012 as the first drug to treat the underlying cause of cystic fibrosis (CF). A second drug, Orkambi, was approved in July 2015 to treat the most common form of CF. Both Kalydeco and Orkambi are recognized as successful examples of personalized medicine. Vertex’s CF program was conducted in collaboration with the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, and is regarded as a model for biotech collaboration with disease-focused advocacy groups.