In Memoriam: Allan H. Conney (1930–2013), Distinguished Scientist, Teacher, Mentor, and Friend

We were very saddened to learn of the death of Allan H. Conney on September 10 at the age of 83. Allan was the William M. and Myrle W. Garbe Professor of Cancer and Leukemia Research and Director of the Susan Lehman Cullman Laboratory for Cancer Research at Rutgers University, and he had stayed active in biomedical research until the time of his death. Allan had a very distinguished career that began with his pioneering work in characterizing the cytochrome P450 family of enzymes. It was perhaps a foreshadowing of the incredible amount of contributions he made to this field that his very first paper was published on page 450 in the 1956 edition of Cancer Research.

Although widely recognized for his outstanding contributions in the field of drug metabolism, Allan also made important contributions in understanding the mechanisms of cancer causation by environmental exposures and was one of the pioneers in the field of cancer prevention. His long and productive collaboration with Donald Jerina of the National Institutes of Health identified the metabolic pathways and stereochemical properties of chemical carcinogens. His contributions to the fields of drug metabolism and cancer research led to his receiving several prestigious awards and election to the National Academy of Sciences.

Allan’s notable contributions to the field of science speak for themselves in terms of his productivity and the many seminal papers his laboratory has published over the last 6 decades. Those of us who had the privilege of being mentored by Allan also understand that one of his major contributions to science was his mentorship of his young colleagues, and the high standards and work ethic he brought to the field. Allan epitomized the concept of being both a gentlemen and a scholar. He was a very low key and humble individual who took great interest in the careers of his young charges. Allan was an incredibly careful and meticulous scientist who always sought to conduct science in the most rigorous and careful manner.

He had a very strong set of ethical standards that he brought to scientific discovery and imparted these to his mentees by his own strong example. Allan was a very generous and willing collaborator, attributes that are often missing in today’s environment but one from which we could all learn. Both of us can recall many times in our own careers when Allan’s thoughtful advice was important in aiding us in difficult times in our own careers. Allan always made himself available to younger scientists and provided a role model of how to properly conduct both the mechanics of scientific discovery and the personal behaviors that one would hope for from a professional colleague.

While many will mourn the loss of a truly outstanding scientist from our profession, those of us who had the distinct honor and privilege of working with Allan also will mourn the loss of one of the finest human beings to grace the halls of our profession.

 

Mark Steven Miller, PhD                                Robert C. Smart, PhD

Professor of Cancer Biology                          William Neal Reynolds Distinguished Professor

Director of Graduate Studies                         Director, Center for Human Health and the Environment   

Wake Forest School of Medicine                   North Carolina State University

President, CancerTox Consulting, LLC  

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