Jerry Hook, PhD

Jerry Hook, PhD

As a Pharmacology student at the UI, Jerry Hook was inspired to understand the interactions of chemicals as pharmacologically active agents and focused on the therapeutic benefit of a new diuretic. In the classroom and in multi-laboratory discussion sessions he was introduced to concepts unique to toxicology, “just as the toxicology students were trained in whole body pharmacodynamics and pharmacokinetics.”

Dr. Hook pursued that early interest, after earning his doctorate in 1966, as a faculty member at Michigan State University. Over his 17 years there, he built laboratories focused on renal physiology and pharmacology. he was founding Director of the Center for Environmental Toxicology, a program that attracted young faculty from a broad array of departments not usually associated with toxicology. Now named the Center for Integrative Toxicology, it continues as a prominent example of broad-based creative toxicology.

He recalls his work at Michigan State: “By the mid 1970s we became aware of insidious biochemical changes that could alter response to other agents, leading on occasion to unexpected ‘environmental’ therapeutic problems Our focus on kidney gave us an important view of kidney anatomy, biochemistry and cell-specific function that allowed us to pinpoint cellular biochemistry and function as targets of toxicity.”

In 1983 he moved to Philadelphia to join Smith Kline & French Laboratories as Vice President for Preclinical Research and Development. Ten years later when he left what was by that time Smith Kline Beecham, he was Senior Vice President and Director of Development with worldwide responsibility for non-clinical drug development. In 1993 he founded and became CEO of a start-up biotech company (Lexin Pharmaceutical Corporation) and in 1996 merged into a publicly traded company (Sparta Pharmaceuticals Inc.), which he headed for three more years before retiring.

Between 1982 and 1986, the National Toxicology Program (NTP) benefitted from Dr. Hook’s commitment to the field. He served as a member and then chaired the Peer Review Panel of Experts. Also during the 1980s, he was involved with a visiting scientist program administered by the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology (FASEB). He traveled to the University of Puerto Rico and several mainland campuses promoting minority access to research careers.

Previous education:

B.S. and B. PHARM
Washington State University
The University of Iowa
Year of degree: 
Awards and honors: 

Dr Hook was a very strong supporter of diversity in the workplace throughout his career. At Smith Kline (both Beckman and Beecham) he founded an Affirmative Action Program in R&D that provided opportunities for gifted employees to intern in “the next highest job” for a year to demonstrate job skills that were unseen in jobs traditionally open to them. His commitment to equal opportunity was also manifest during his time on the Advisory Board for Toxicology Research and Training in the John Jay College of Criminal Justice, services that culminated in the awarding of an honorary Doctor of Science by the parent organization, the City University of New York.

Over his career, Dr. Hook produced more than 250 publications and book chapters in the peer-reviewed literature. He served on 10 different editorial boards and participated in numerous professional societies, chief among them the Society of Toxicology, which he led as President in 1987-88. During that term, the organization initiated a program to ensure participation of women in all SOT activities and created the first Women in Toxicology committee. He points out with justifiable pride, “For many years now, SOT has been a gender-blind organization.”

Counsel for current toxicology students: 
“A career in biological science is similar to playing a lifelong crossword puzzle. As you fill in the blanks to display a new word, other letters show themselves, suggesting even more new words may be found if you pursue the challenge. Thus in science—the more clues you uncover, the more you realize how much remains to be done.”