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Biographical entry Adams, Jerry McKee (1940 - )


17 June 1940
United States of America
Molecular biologist


Jerry Adams is noted for his achievements in molecular biology, immunology and the molecular genetics of cancer. Although born in the USA, Adams has carried out most of his research in Australia at the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research (WEHI) in Melbourne. He is now joint head of the Institute's Molecular Genetics of Cancer Division, a position he shares with his with his wife Suzanne Cory. Together they and their research team have made many major contributions to medical science. They were the first clone mammalian genes in Australia and discovered (i) that antibody genes encode to recombine in a myriad of ways to help fight infection, (ii) the genetic mutation that leads to Burkitt's lymphoma and (iii) the connection between apoptosis (programmed cell death) and cancer, while studying bcl-2 gene in follicular lymphoma (the most common human lymphoma).


After completing his PhD, Adams was awarded the Helen Hay Whitney Fellowship to pursue post-doctoral training. Firstly, Adams spent a year working for Professor James Watson at the MRCL of Molecular Biology in Cambridge, England. He then moved to the Institut de Biologie Moléculaire, at the University of Geneva where he trained under Professor A. Tissiéres. During this stay in Geneva he met Suzanne Cory and started their long-term collaboration. Adams and Cory moved to Australia and began working at WEHI where they established the Institute's first molecular genetics laboratory. Their research first looked into how lymphocytes could produce so many different antibodies providing insights into the constant and variable segments of antibodies and how they are rearranged and deleted. Next Adams and his team moved into the study of the genetics of cancer and again made major contributions. In 1982 Adams, and Cory, was made joint head of the new Molecular Genetics of Cancer Division at WEHI and continues to hold this post today. His efforts and achievements have been widely recognized and awarded.


Education - Bachelor of Science (BSc) completed at Emory University in Atlanta, USA
1962 - 1967
Career position - National Science Foundation Pre-doctoral Fellow at Harvard University, USA
Education - Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) completed at Harvard University in Massachusetts, USA
1967 - 1968
Career position - Helen Hay Whitney Fellow at the Medical Research Council Laboratory (MRCL) of Molecular Biology in Cambridge, UK
1969 - 1970
Career position - Helen Hay Whitney Fellow of the Institut de Biologie Moléculaire, Université de Genéve
1971 - 1976
Award - Established Investigator of American Heart Association award received
1972 - 1976
Career position - Research Officer at The Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research (WEHI), Victoria
1977 - 1979
Career position - Research Fellow then Senior Research Fellow at WEHI
1980 - 1982
Career position - Principal Research Fellow at WEHI
1982 -
Career position - Joint Head of Molecular Biology of Cancer Division (formally the Molecular Biology Unit) at the WEHI
1982 -
Career position - Senior Principal Research Fellow at WEHI
Award - David Syme Research Prize in the National Sciences received
1986 -
Award - Fellow of the Australian Academy of Science (FAA)
Award - Lemberg Medal received from the Australian Biochemical Society
Award - Fellow of the Royal Society (FRS)
1993 -
Career position - Research Professor of Molecular Genetics at the University of Melbourne

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Rosanne Walker & Annette Alafaci