February 29, 2008

Guengerich to hold chair honoring mentor

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Fred Guengerich, Ph.D., left, with his longtime colleague and mentor, Harry Broquist, Ph.D., Professor Emeritus of Biochemistry. (photo by Dana Johnson)

Guengerich to hold chair honoring mentor

F. Peter (Fred) Guengerich, Ph.D., professor of Biochemistry and director of the Center in Molecular Toxicology, has been named the first holder of the Harry P. Broquist Chair in Biochemistry.

“This chair is long overdue because of the great distinction Fred brings to Vanderbilt,” said Michael Waterman, Ph.D., chair of the Department of Biochemistry. “In my opinion, there is no one on campus who is more deserving of a chair.”

“I appreciate this recognition very much,” said Guengerich, who chose to name the new chair in honor of his graduate school mentor, Harry Broquist, Ph.D., professor emeritus of Biochemistry.

“I've always felt strongly about mentoring, and I really value the mentoring I had as a graduate student,” Guengerich said. “I thought this would be a nice way to recognize Dr. Broquist.”

Broquist, who served on the Vanderbilt faculty from 1969 to 1988 and still lives in Nashville, said he was honored to have his name included in Guengerich's new title.

“It's lovely; we will go down in history together,” Broquist said.

The two first met at the University of Illinois on a Saturday morning in 1968, when Guengerich, then an undergraduate, asked Broquist to consider him for a summer research position.

“Happily, he wound up with me,” Broquist recalled. “I was plenty impressed, and when I moved to Vanderbilt I suggested that Fred join our group as a graduate student.”

Guengerich took the suggestion and for his doctoral dissertation research, he isolated and characterized a biochemical factor from a mold that was causing excessive salivation in dairy cows.

“We took a lot of kidding for working on a 'slobber factor,' as you might imagine,” Broquist laughed.

After completing his Ph.D. degree in three years, Guengerich served as a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Michigan and returned to Vanderbilt as an assistant professor of Biochemistry in 1975. He is the longest-serving director of a National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences core center (the Center in Molecular Toxicology at Vanderbilt), a position he has held since 1981.

Over the last 30-plus years, Guengerich and his colleagues have focused on the metabolism of drugs and carcinogens by a family of proteins called P450 enzymes. They have also worked to understand how polymerase enzymes — the proteins that copy DNA — interact with carcinogen-modified DNA. With more than 540 peer-reviewed publications, he is one of the most highly cited researchers worldwide in the areas of biochemistry, pharmacology and drug metabolism.

Fifteen graduate students and more than 100 postdoctoral fellows from around the globe have trained with Guengerich. He was awarded the VUMC Excellence in Teaching Award for Mentoring Postdoctoral Fellows and/or Residents, and the award is now named the Guengerich Award.

Among many honors, Guengerich counts the Earl Sutherland Prize for Achievement in Research from Vanderbilt, the John Jacob Abel Award and the Bernard B. Brodie Award in Drug Metabolism, both from the American Society for Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics, and the William C. Rose Award from the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology.