Processing the Arthur B. Pardee Papers As Part of the Maximizing Microbiology Project

By , December 4, 2015

In 1954, Arthur B. Pardee published a paper describing the discovery of messenger RNA (mRNA), soon after publishing the first report of ribosomes in bacteria in 1952, forever changing the study of microbiology. The Center for the History of Medicine is pleased to report that the Arthur B. Pardee papers (1949-2001), a product of Pardee’s professional activities, research, and career as a professor at Harvard Medical School and researcher at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, are currently being processed as part of the Maximizing Microbiology: Molecular Genetics, Cancer, and Virology, 1936-2000 project.

Arthur B. Pardee (1921-) graduated from the University of California, Berkeley, in 1942, before receiving his Masters of Science in 1943 and then doctorate from the California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, in 1947. Pardee spent several years teaching and working in the influential Virus Lab at the University of California, Berkeley, where much of his early research focused on the mechanism of feedback inhibition at the biochemical level. While working at the Virus Lab, Pardee made the discovery of mRNA as well as the presence of ribosomes in bacteria. In 1959, Pardee took a sabbatical and worked with Francois Jacob (1920-2013) and Jacques Monod (1910-1976) at the Institut Pasteur in Paris, where they carried out the “PaJaMo” experiment, which demonstrated that gene expression is regulated by a repressor mechanism.

Pardee went on to become a Professor of Biochemical Sciences at Princeton University, Princeton, New Jersey, where he  identified the restriction point in the cell cycle, or “Pardee point,” which is a point in a cell cycle in the G1 Phase where the cell commits to moving to the S Phase. He published this finding in 1974, defining the discovery as that of a restriction point for control of normal animal cell proliferation.

In 1975, Pardee accepted the positions of Professor of Biological Chemistry, Biological Chemistry and Molecular Pharmacology, Harvard Medical School, and Chief, Division of Cell Growth and Regulation, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, Boston, Massachusetts. In the 1980s, Pardee continued his work relating to cancer, identifying certain agents that can uncouple mitosis from the completion of DNA replication, which is lethal to cells. This finding led directly to the emergence of the idea that the cell-cycle is controlled by “checkpoint” proteins, which ensure temporal control of cell-cycle biochemical events. He thus introduced the idea that cancer cell frequently harbor defects in checkpoint proteins, and that checkpoint-abrogating agents might be used to selectively kill cancer cells. In the 1990s, along with Peng Liang, Pardee invented the concept of differential display, which is a method to detect messenger RNAs expressed in a given cell type, which can be used to isolate specific genes. This has since been used to detect genes whose expression has been altered by cancer or other diseases, and was one of the first methods used to detect cancer in its early stages. For his many accomplishments, Pardee has received countless awards and honors, and has been an elected Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences since 1963 and member of the National Academy of Sciences since 1968. He retired from teaching in 1992, and remains a Professor Emeritus at the Harvard Medical School. He continues to work as the Chief of the Division of Cell Growth and Regulation at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, actively publishing articles.

The papers, created throughout Pardee’s professional, research, and publishing activities, include raw research data, presentation materials, writings, and other materials relating to his professional activities. They are expected to be opened to research by the end of 2015.

The Maximizing Microbiology: Molecular Genetics, Cancer, and Virology, 1936-2000 project is funded by a Hidden Collections grant from the Harvard University Libraries. In addition to the Arthur B. Pardee papers, the project will also open the collections of other scientists and professors whose work relates to the origins of molecular genetics: the Francesc Duran i Reynals papers, 1936-1959 and the Luigi Gorini papers, 1947-1980s. Already, the Bernard D. Davis papers, 1909-1995 (inclusive), 1939-1994 (bulk), have been opened as part of the project. For more information on the Maximizing Microbiology project, please contact Emily Novak Gustainis, Head, Collections Services or Elizabeth Coup, Processing Assistant.

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