A Nobel Prize winner on Friday helped send off a 28-year veteran of kidney research at Kansas University Medical Center.
Richard Roberts, who received a Nobel Prize in 1993 for his discovery that an individual gene can comprise several DNA segments, spoke Friday at the Med Center's Walter S. Sutton Symposium, held to honor Billy Hudson, an internationally known authority on the biochemistry of progressive kidney disease.
The symposium, which drew about 300 people, also celebrated the 100th anniversary of Sutton's discover that chromosomes carry the units of inheritance. Sutton was a KU student.
"Dr. Hudson has been a wonderful resource for the state of Kansas," said Deborah Powell, dean of the School of Medicine. "It's a loss for the Med Center, but he has meant so much to us that we wanted to honor him because there's probably been no one as important to research here."
In January, Hudson announced his decision to leave KU for Vanderbilt University, where he said he could pursue research in a well-established department for proteomics, the study of protein. Proteomics is a main focus of the initiative between the Med Center and other Kansas City research institutions to turn the area into a major hub for life sciences research.
Hudson came to KU in 1974 and has served as dean of research at the Med Center. He's been chairman of biochemistry and molecular biology since 1994.
"One of the reasons I came to KU was to come into a medical environment so I could interact with physician scientists," Hudson said. "What would happen over the next 28 years would far exceed my expectations."
The National Institutes of Health has funded Hudson's research continuously for 29 years and has approved another 10 years of funding.
His research involves matrix biology, which studies the foundations that hold cells together to form tissues. Those foundations are impaired in people who have certain diseases.
Hudson has focused on kidney diseases such as diabetes, Goodpasture syndrome and Alport syndrome.
Hudson, who will serve as professor of medicine and director of the Vanderbilt Center for Matrix Biology, was a key player in developing the proteomics proposal that is tied to Kansas City's life sciences initiative.
The Med Center is in the process of recruiting a new chairman of biochemistry, who should be in place by fall and have a proteomics background, Powell said. Researchers who have worked with Hudson during his tenure will continue his work in proteins so that, hopefully, NIH dollars still will come to KU.
"That's our No. 1 goal," Powell said.