An Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation scientist has become only the fourth Oklahoman in history to be elected to the National Academy of Sciences. After the Nobel Prize, membership in the Academy is one of the highest honors that can be accorded to a scientist.
Dr. Charles T. Esmon, OMRF Lloyd Noble Chair in Cardiovascular Research, was one of 72 new members nationwide whose election to the Academy was announced today.
Esmon and the others were chosen in the business session of the 139th meeting of the Academy Tuesday morning in Washington, D.C. According to the Academy, elections were made “in recognition of their distinguished and continuing achievements in original research.”
Those elected today bring the total number of active members in the Academy to 1907. University of Oklahoma Geophysicist Douglas Lilly is the only other active Oklahoma member.
The National Academy of Sciences is a private organization of scientists and engineers dedicated to the furtherance of science and its use for the general welfare. It was established in 1863 by a congressional act of incorporation, signed by Abraham Lincoln, that calls on the Academy to act as an official adviser to the federal government, upon request, in any matter of science or technology.
Of the four Oklahomans to have been elected to the Academy, three have been OMRF scientists.
“I am amazed and very surprised, to put it mildly,” said Esmon, who was traveling to lecture at the University of California at Davis when he learned of his election. “I am thankful to everyone who ever worked with me.”
Esmon heads OMRF’s Cardiovascular Biology Research Program, and is internationally recognized as one of the world’s experts in the field of blood coagulation and heart disease research. He is considered a major developer of the protein C pathway and how it is involved in inflammation and other disease processes.
Most recently a method of treatment for septic shock developed by Esmon and fellow OMRF investigator Dr. Fletcher Taylor resulted in the drug Xigris, the first effective treatment for a condition that kills more than 250,000 Americans each year.
“This is truly a day of pride for OMRF,” said Governor Frank Keating. “On behalf of all Oklahomans, I congratulate Dr. Esmon for this tremendous honor. He will bring great knowledge and experience to the Academy.”
Esmon, 55, received his bachelor’s degree in chemistry from the University of Illinois, his Ph.D. degree in biochemistry from Washington University in St. Louis, and conducted post doctoral research at the University of Wisconsin.
He then joined the faculty at the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center, where he still serves as Adjunct Professor of Biochemistry and Adjunct Professor of Pathology.
Esmon joined OMRF in 1982, and was named head of the Cardiovascular Biology Research Program in 1992.
In 1988, he was named Oklahoma’s first Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigator. Esmon received the Edward L. and Thelma Gaylord Prize for Scientific Achievement in April 2001 from the OMRF Board of Directors.
“This is a major accomplishment for Chuck Esmon,” said OMRF President Dr. J. Donald Capra. “His lifelong work on the clotting system has already proven to be monumental in our understanding of blood coagulation, and his groundbreaking research has led to the development of two approved drugs currently on the market.
“One of the goals of OMRF has been to promote one of its outstanding scientists to the National Academy,” Capra said. “Dr. Esmon’s election is a tribute to his brilliance and hard work. Credit should also be given to a wonderful support network that includes his OMRF and University of Oklahoma colleagues, the OMRF Board of Directors and the Samuel Roberts Noble Foundation.”
Dr. Colin M. MacLeod, OMRF’s first salaried, full-time president, was elected to the Academy in 1955. He served at OMRF from 1970 until his death in 1972. Dr. Robert A. Good was elected to the Academy in 1970. He served as member and head of the OMRF Cancer Research Program from 1982-85, and is now at the University of South Florida.
“What a great honor for Dr. Esmon and a wonderful opportunity for the nation to see the high level of scientific achievement occurring every day at OMRF,” said Len Cason, OMRF Board of Directors Chairman. “We are very proud and pleased.”
Esmon also serves on editorial boards for numerous scientific journals as well as advisory and review committees for the American Heart Association, FASEB, Gordon Conferences, National Institutes of Health and numerous universities, biotechnology companies, hospitals and professional societies.
“Dr. Esmon is an outstanding colleague, and for over 25 years he has been a valuable member of the Biochemistry & Molecular Biology Department at the OU Health Sciences Center,” said Dr. Paul H. Weigel, Professor and Chairman of the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology at OUHSC. “As an adjunct Professor of Biochemistry & Molecular Biology he has generously shared techniques and resources with other faculty, contributed his expertise to Department graduate teaching programs, and mentored numerous doctoral students. We are very proud of Dr. Esmon’s affiliation with the University of Oklahoma.”