In Memoriam

Obituary: Paul Kelly (1943-2018) 

 

Dear Colleagues

It is with great sadness that we learned that Professor Paul Kelly passed away on Wednesday November 28, 2018.

Paul was an internationally well-known endocrinologist. After a Ph.D. in Endocrinology and Reproductive Physiology from the University of Wisconsin in 1972, Paul went to Canada to do his post-doctoral training in the laboratories of the renowned Professors Henry Friesen (McGill University and University of Manitoba) and Fernand Labrie (Laval University). In 1975, at Laval University, he joined the group in 'Molecular Endocrinology' of the Medical Research Council of Canada, and, in 1983, he became a full Professor in the Department of Medicine of McGill University where he created the Laboratory of Molecular Endocrinology that he directed until 1991.  At this time, he decided to move to France, specifically to the Faculty of Medicine Necker (University of Paris Descartes), where he created the Inserm Unit 344 that he directed for 15 years as a Senior Director of Research at Inserm followed by an appointment as a University Hospital Professor (1993).  During this time, Paul played a key role in a project to bring together several laboratories on the Necker campus, and, in 2007, succeeded in creating the Research Center 'Growth and Signaling' (Inserm Unit 845) that he directed until 2010.  This structure has become a department of the present Institute Necker Enfants Malades (INEM, Inserm U1151) of which Paul was a member until 2014 as a Professor Emeritus. Besides science and research, Paul also contributed significantly to the evolution of the Necker campus at the critical turn of the 20th to the 21st century. He was the director the "Institut Fédératif de Recherches" between 2000 and 2010. Paul was a visionary; his actions stimulated the emergence of several technologic core facilities. Despite numerous obstacles, Paul persevered in his objective to contribute to this structuring of the Necker campus and today, the entire research community of Necker is indebted to him.

During his career, Paul made fundamental contributions to the field of research on the hormone prolactin.  After making significant advances on the actions of prolactin at Laval University, Paul and his team at McGill University made an internationally acclaimed breakthrough by cloning the prolactin receptor (Cell, 1988).  This result constituted the basis of the work that he continued at the Faculty of Medicine Necker to elucidate the molecular mechanisms of action of prolactin and, using a prolactin receptor-deficient mouse model, the complex pathophysiology of this pleiotropic hormone.

Paul had a strong involvement in editorial activities and served as editor for numerous leading journals in the field of endocrinology. Together with Professor E.E. Baulieu Paul edited the famous textbook "Hormones: From Molecules to Disease" (Hermann, Paris and Chapman-Hall, New York, 1990). He was the Chairman for Basic Research of the 82nd US Endocrine Society meeting in 2000 and chaired the Gordon Research Conference on Prolactin in 2002. Paul was member of nine distinguished societies. He published over 400 peer-reviewed articles and was a recipient of several prestigious honors and awards, including the Chaire in Molecular Endocrinology of the Fondation de France, the Gerald D. Aurbach Award and the French Ordre national du mérite.

During his exceptional scientific career, Paul remained humble. Accessible, always turned towards others, he was instrumental for the early career of a great number of young scientists who, today, are infinitely grateful. He was also an exceptional teacher.

Henry Friesen says: "Today I recall an earlier period both at McGill and the University of Manitoba when the terra incognito of the domains of prolactin and growth hormone receptors were beginning to be explored. And of course Paul Kelly, Bob Shiu, and Michael Waters were pioneers and trailblazers in the journey of discovery in my lab at that time. But it was Paul Kelly who singlehandedly with his team pursued the scientific quest using ever more sophisticated tools to define the mysteries and mechanisms of the prolactin receptor-ligand hormone interactions and the post receptor signals. It was a monumental achievement made even more heroic as the advances and progress occurred despite the intrusive health challenges he faced over an extended period. Endocrinology has lost a leader and a creative contributor whose life is a shining example of the triumph of the resilience of the human spirit in the face of crippling adversity."

We will remember Paul Kelly as a leading scientist in his field, a mentor, a federator and, maybe above all, a man of incomparable kindness and rare humanism.

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