September 15, 2006

Garbers remembered as ‘scientist’s scientist’

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David Garbers, Ph.D.

Garbers remembered as ‘scientist’s scientist’

David Garbers, Ph.D., a member of the Vanderbilt faculty from 1974 to 1990, died Sept. 5 in Dallas, where he was professor of Pharmacology and director of the Cecil H. and Ida Green Center for Reproductive Biology Sciences at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center. He was 62.

Dr. Garbers was an investigator of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute for more than 30 years, and he was a member of the National Academy of Sciences and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

His research explored the fundamental mechanics of fertilization and the properties of sperm and eggs.

Dr. Garbers came to Vanderbilt in 1972 as a postdoctoral fellow in Physiology, joined the faculty of that department in 1974, and rose through the ranks to professor of Molecular Physiology and Biophysics and Pharmacology.

At Vanderbilt, he discovered on the sperm cells of sea urchins a novel family of receptors called guanylyl cyclases, responsible for sensing signals from the egg. He and his colleagues later found the same receptors in higher animals.

“Dave Garbers was a remarkable person. He was a Wisconsin farm boy who became an internationally renowned scientist, but he never lost his farm roots,” said John Exton, M.D., Ph.D., professor of Molecular Physiology & Biophysics and Pharmacology.

“His accomplishments were remarkable, ranging from the enzymology of guanylyl cyclase, the actions of atrial natriuretic peptides, interactions between sperm and eggs to the mechanisms of olfaction,” Exton said.

“Despite his outstanding accomplishments, he remained a shy, self-effacing and very private person. He will be greatly missed.”

Lee Limbird, Ph.D., vice president for Research and chair of Biomedical Sciences at Meharry Medical College, described Garbers as a “scientist's scientist.”

“He reflected all of the integrity of an investigator truly seeking new knowledge that characterized his mentor, Joel Hardman,” she said.

“His membership in the National Academy of Sciences reflects the national awareness of what his closest colleagues also knew: David was able to go beyond the known in a fundamental way, making one discovery after another, most of them resulting in significant paradigm shifts in our understanding of the biology he queried.”