1965–1982: The Craig and Wolff Chairships
Research agenda expands: computer-aided drug design, synthetic chemistry, NMR, MassSpec, enzymology, parasitology
1965, Warren Kumler handed the department chair position to John Craig. Craig was active in envisioning future space requirements of the department and planning an expansion of the graduate program. He was especially effective at cornering resources (generally from federal agencies) for mass spectroscopy and NMR spectroscopy, which were needed for the expanded research role played by the department.
Manfred Wolff became chair in 1970. With strong encouragement from School of Pharmacy Dean Jere Goyan (later to become the only pharmacist to head the United States Food and Drug Administration) and the coincidental retirement of many of the department’s founding faculty members, Wolff expanded the department by hiring additional faculty members in areas of physical chemistry and enzymology, metabolism and toxicology, parasitology, computational chemistry, and computer graphics.
It was definitely a bold and prescient vision for faculty members from a pharmacy school to be engaged in some of these areas:
(Tack) Kuntz, Peter Kollman (and a decade later, Ken Dill), joined the department and established the power of computation to lend insight and guidance to biological and medicinal questions. Kollman’s lab developed, widely distributed, and continually enhanced the molecular simulation program suite AMBER. A decade later, Kuntz’s lab did the same thing for the seminal molecular docking program DOCK.
Robert Langridge led the work to develop the first computer software for molecular graphics, MIDAS, to be distributed widely. Faculty member Thomas Ferrin was a founding member of the Computer Graphics Lab (CGL) and led the practical development of MIDAS and its successors; CGL continues as a national Biomedical Technology Resource Center, with perennial support from the National Center for Research Resources.
Paul Ortiz de Montellano used his synthetic chemistry expertise with metabolism and toxicology as a focus, especially xenobiotics and P450.
Thomas James was recruited as an NMR spectroscopist, not to analyze synthesized molecules, but to understand nucleic acid and protein structure, dynamics, and molecular interactions of biological importance, as well as to develop NMR capabilities for both molecular and in vivo studies, utilized by many others at UCSF.
Richard Shafer used principally biophysical methods, including NMR, to study DNA as well as its interaction with various DNA-targeting drugs.
Chung (C.C.) Wang already had a renowned industrial career when he joined us to elucidate the molecular biology of parasites.
Likewise, Al Burlingame migrated across the bay from UC Berkeley to develop further the huge potential of mass spectroscopy, establishing the still on-going National Biomedical Mass Spectrometry Resource Center with National Center for Research Resources (NCRR) support.
Norman Oppenheimer joined the department to strengthen enzymology, especially dehydrogenases, as a department capability.
NIH support frees funds for faculty hires
Importantly, the NIH was instrumental in developing the department in the 1970s and early 1980s. At least four faculty members were able to garner five-year NIH Career Development Awards; since the CDAs covered salary, this freed funds to hire new faculty.
PhD graduate program in biophysics is added
The Graduate Program in Biophysics was instituted and involved most of the faculty in the department. Irwin Kuntz served as the original program director; Matt Jacobson is the current director. All department faculty members have been involved with multiple graduate programs.