March 2010

Member Spotlight

In Memoriam: Gene A. Homandberg

Gene A. Homandberg, chair of the department of biochemistry and molecular biology at the University of North Dakota School of Medicine and Health Sciences, passed away on Dec. 21, at the age of 59.

An Iowa native, Homandberg pursued his education at the University of South Dakota, where he earned his Bachelor of Science degree in chemistry and a doctorate in biochemistry. He then served as a postdoctoral research associate in the department of chemistry at Purdue University and later at the National Institutes of Health National Institute of Arthritis, Metabolic and Digestive Disorders.

In 1984, Homandberg became an assistant professor at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health and was promoted to associate professor in 1986. He then joined Abbott Laboratories as a senior biochemist and worked there for two years before becoming a professor of biochemistry at Rush Medical College. He eventually was promoted to the Dr. Ralph and Marian C. Falk professor of biochemistry endowed chair. In 2002, Homandberg moved to the University of North Dakota and became the William Cornatzer chair in biochemistry.

Homandberg was a highly recognized researcher in osteoarthritis and cartilage physiology, and, in 1999, he was awarded permanent membership in the Frontiers in Bioscience Society of Scientists, based on his work in the regulation of cartilage metabolism in osteoarthritis.

In Memoriam: James B. Peter

James B. Peter, founder of Specialty Laboratories Inc., died on Oct. 30. He was 76.

A native of Omaha, Neb., Peter earned his medical degree from St. Louis University in 1958. He then went to the University of Minnesota, where he earned a doctorate in biochemistry in 1963, working with Paul D. Boyer. Peter then joined the faculty of the University of California, Los Angeles, where he served as professor, clinical professor and College of Letters and Sciences advisory board member.

In 1975, Peter founded Clinical Immunologies Inc. with the mission to “help doctors help patients.” His hope was to bring modern biochemistry and immunology to the clinical laboratory marketplace. By the mid-1980s, the company had become Specialty Laboratories Inc., and Peter had created a unique niche in the lab industry. He and his scientific team developed a constant flow of proprietary esoteric tests and assays. In 2006, Specialty Laboratories was acquired by AmeriPath Inc., which was subsequently acquired by Quest Diagnostics in 2007.

Peter also founded the Specialty Family Foundation in 2006 with a mission to help ensure a Catholic education for demographically disadvantaged children. In addition to its focus on education, the foundation is involved in researching methods to support people with alcohol and substance abuse problems. 

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