ASBMB Past Presidents

1970 – Eugene P. Kennedy

(b. 1919)



Eugene Patrick Kennedy was born in Chicago, Illinois. He enrolled at De Paul University in 1937 as a chemistry major and then went to the University of Chicago in 1941 for graduate training in biochemistry. His research, done with Albert Lehninger, was on fatty acid oxidation and led Lehninger and Kennedy to surmise that fatty acid oxidation, oxidative phosphorylation, and the Krebs cycle all took place in one organelle. Eventually, Kennedy showed that these reactions occur in the mitochondria.

After finishing graduate school, Kennedy went to the University of California, Berkeley, to work with Horace A. Barker, and in 1950, he joined Fritz Lipmann at Harvard Medical School. Kennedy then returned to the University of Chicago in 1951, after being given a joint appointment in the Department of Biochemistry and the newly organized Ben May Laboratory for Cancer Research. In Chicago, Kennedy began to study the origins of the phosphodiester bond of phosphatidylcholine using labeled choline, which led to his discovery of cytidine triphosphate (CTP). Kennedy's work on mitochondria and CTP was featured in a Journal of Biological Chemistry Classic (1).

In 1959, Kennedy was invited to become Hamilton Kuhn Professor and head of the Department of Biological Chemistry at the Harvard Medical School. He continued his research on phospholipid biosynthesis and by 1961 was able to formulate a detailed picture of the pathways of biosynthesis of the principal glycerophosphatides and of triacylglycerol. Kennedy's interests also led him to investigate membrane biogenesis and function in bacteria, the translocation of membrane phospholipids, and periplasmic glucans and cell signaling in bacteria. Kennedy was president of the American Society of Biological Chemists in 1970 and was also a member of the editorial board and an associate editor for the Journal of Biological Chemistry. He has received many awards and honors including election to the National Academy of Sciences (1964), the Gairdner Foundation International Award (1976), the University of Chicago Distinguished Service Award (1966), and the Boehringer Ingelheim Heinrich Wieland Prize (1986).

1. Kresge, N., Simoni, R. D., and Hill, R. L. (2005) The Kennedy pathway for phospholipid synthesis: The work of Eugene Kennedy. J. Biol. Chem. 280 (25)