In Memorium: Susan L. Lindquist

I first met Susan (Sue) Lindquist at a Cold Spring Harbor Meeting in 2012, just months before graduating with a Ph.D. Meeting a pioneer in the field of protein folding and heat shock proteins is an incredible honor especially since my graduate research was building on the foundations of the field that she discovered and published first in 1980, months before I was even born.

On Oct 27th 2016, the sad and shocking news came that Sue had succumbed to cancer. She was a woman scientist who wasn’t afraid to take scientific risks and took an active role in training the next generation of scientists. Even colleagues I have worked with in Munich, Germany can trace their scientific pedigree back to her.

Interestingly, there were 2 degrees of scientific separation between Sue and me. Dr. Samuel Kaplan who in 1967 was a professor of Microbiology at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign had taught Sue microbiology and later suggested to her to attend Harvard for graduate school after completing her BS in Microbiology. Dr. Kaplan was the Chair of the Dept. of Microbiology and Molecular Genetics in Houston, Texas where I started as a graduate student in 2006.

Dr. Lindquist’s first review of the field of heat shock proteins has over 3400 citations, indicating her expertise and the respect her work commanded in the field. Her studies using the simple Baker’s yeast, Saccharomyces cerevisiae yielded several novel insights into the basic aspects of genetics, cell biology and evolution. This is also the same model organism that I worked with during my Ph.D. studies.

Dr. Lindquist gives a very nice talk about the problem of protein folding in the cell and its role in disease progression with very nice analogies that non-scientists can understand. The YouTube video can be accessed here. She also gives a great introduction into Prion Biology and why she uses yeast as a model to study ‘mad cow disease’. Click for the YouTube video here. Sue is remembered by the American Society for Cell Biology, where she was a member for many years (ASCB Memorium). Click this link to her Wikipedia page and a New York Times article (link) to find out more about her. Anna Azvolinsky from The Scientist wrote a lovely commentary on Sue titled “Fearless about Folding”. Check it out here.

In addition to her scientific endeavors, Dr. Lindquist also founded successful Biotech companies. She was co-founder of FoldRx Therapeutics Inc., which was later acquired by Pfizer (link) and was the scientific founder of Yumanity Therapeutics LLC. (link). She was also on the board of Johnson & Johnson.

She will be terribly missed in the field!

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