Remembering Earl Davie — A Pioneer in Blood Coagulation Research

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Photo of Earl Davie
Credit:
Nicole Kresge et al. J. Biol. Chem. 2006;281:e39
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Earl Davie, PhD, professor emeritus and former chair of the Department of Biochemistry, died on June 6, 2020. He is known as a giant in the field of biochemistry for his life-saving research around blood clotting and therapeutic proteins. 

He was one of the first researchers to explain how blood clots, which led to a range of treatments for patients with blood disorders. Along with his colleagues, he is also well-known for developing the revolutionary Waterfall Sequence for Intrinsic Blood Clotting. Published in Science in 1964, the work is considered pivotal in understanding the biochemistry of fibrin formation and continues to be foundational in developing diagnostic tests and therapies. 

A distinguished career in biochemistry 

Davie was born in 1927 in Tacoma, Washington. In 1950, he received his undergraduate degree from the University of Washington. He continued his doctoral studies at the UW, graduating with a PhD in 1954. 

His early research career focused on studying protein structure and function. He completed a postdoctoral fellowship at Harvard University and continued his studies at Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine. There he met Oscar Ratnoff, MD, who introduced him to research around blood clotting. 

In 1962, Davie was invited to join the faculty in the Department of Biochemistry at the UW. It was here that he discovered the “waterfall cascade” sequence for blood clotting. He served as chair of the department from 1975 to 1984. 

Davie’s work extended beyond academia as well. In 1981, he co-founded ZymoGenetics, one of the first biotechnology companies in Seattle. The company focused on the discovery and development of protein therapeutics. In 1988, it was acquired by Novo Nordisk, which also established the Earl W. Davie/ZymoGenetics Endowed Chair in Biochemistry at the UW in 1993. ZymoGenetics was eventually acquired by Bristol-Myers Squibb. 

A legacy of achievements and honors

Davie was a member of the National Academy of Sciences (1980), a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (1982) and fellow of the American Academy of the Arts and Sciences (1987). 

He published more than 150 research papers, served on the editorial board for the Journal of Biological Chemistry (1968-73 and 1975-80) and was also the associate editor of Biochemistry (1980-2003). 

Davie’s numerous awards and honors include the International Prize, French Association for Hemophiliacs (1983); Waterford Bio-Medical Research Prize (1985), the Robert P. Grant Medal; International Society of Thrombosis and Haemostasis (1989); Henry M. Stratton Medal, American Society of Hematology (1993); and Distinguished Achievement Award (1995) and Special Recognition Award (2002), American Heart Association. The University of Washington named him Inventor of the Year in 1985. 

Every year, the Earl W. Davie Symposium at the University of British Columbia honors his outstanding body of work and provides inspiration to the next generation of students and researchers.