Retrospective

Richard J. Havel (1925 – 2016)

ASBMB Today Staff
By ASBMB Today Staff
August 01, 2016

Richard “Dick” J. Havel, former director of the Cardiovascular Research Institute at the University of California, San Francisco, died in April in Greenbrae, Calif. He was 91.

Havel contributed to the emergence of the field of lipid metabolism both as an institute director and head of the Specialized Center for Research in Arteriosclerosis, a National Institutes of Health-supported group of laboratories that brought an array of technical approaches to lipid research.

Richard J. Havel

Born in Seattle, Wash., Havel attended Reed College and went on to obtain his M.S. and M.D. from the University of Oregon Medical School in 1949. He completed his residency in medicine at Cornell University, serving as chief resident from 1952 to 1953. He then worked at the National Institutes of Health until 1956 before moving to UCSF to join the founding faculty of the Cardiovascular Research Institute.

While at the NIH, Havel developed the technique of quantitative ultracentrifugation, which remains a standard technique in the field to this day. It allowed the discrimination of clinical phenotypes and provided a basis for understanding lipid transport in health and disease. As a result of this work, Havel became the first to define the genetic disorder of lipoprotein lipase deficiency.

Havel succeeded Julius Comroe as director of the Cardiovascular Research Institute and later become interim director until his retirement in 1996. From 1971 until 1996, he also served as director of the NIH’s Specialized Center for Research in Arteriosclerosis, or SCOR.

Under his direction, SCOR investigators created a large body of integrated discovery on lipoprotein biology and its clinical significance, including the multistaged formation of triglyceride-rich lipoproteins, cholesterol efflux, structural and functional studies of HDL, and one of the first demonstrations that reducing the levels of atherogenic lipoproteins would result in diminution of the volume of arterial plaques.

Havel was elected to the National Academy of Sciences in 1983 and the Institute of Medicine in 1989. He won the Bristol Myers Squibb/Mead Johnson Award for Distinguished Achievement in Nutrition Research and a Distinguished Achievement Award from the American Heart Association Council on Arteriosclerosis. He served as editor-in-chief of the Journal of Lipid Research from 1972 to 1975 and as chair of its advisory board from 1982 to 1992.

Part of Havel’s legacy will be the careers of a large number of investigators who trained in his laboratory and with the SCOR group, who are now distinguished academicians in many countries. Havel leaves behind his wife, four children and three grandchildren.

This is a condensed version of an obituary that first appeared in the Journal of Lipid Research. It was written by John P. Kane and Mary J. Malloy at the University of California, San Francisco.

ASBMB Today Staff
ASBMB Today Staff

This article was written by a member or members of the ASBMB Today staff.

Join the ASBMB Today mailing list

Sign up to get updates on articles, interviews and events.

Latest in People

People highlights or most popular articles

Leadership on the cutting edge
Profile

Leadership on the cutting edge

July 06, 2020

Toni Antalis, the ASBMB’s new president, talks about reopening her lab after COVID-19 closures, how she’s repurposing anthrax toxins to fight cancer and the most interesting book she has read lately.

Enyenihi wins Emory chemistry award; Miesenböck shares Shaw Prize
Member News

Enyenihi wins Emory chemistry award; Miesenböck shares Shaw Prize

July 06, 2020

Awards, promotions, milestones and more. Find out what's going on in the lives of ASBMB members.

A virtual high school science fair — from the judges’ perspective
Student Chapters

A virtual high school science fair — from the judges’ perspective

June 29, 2020

When the pandemic forces a New Jersey science fair to go digital, judges and student competitors have to learn a whole new way of presenting research.

Koleske appointed Ensign professor; remembering Zena Werb
Member News

Koleske appointed Ensign professor; remembering Zena Werb

June 29, 2020

Promotions, honors, milestones and more. Find out what's going on in the lives of ASBMB members.

ASBMB welcomes new members
Member News

ASBMB welcomes new members

June 22, 2020

The American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology welcomes new members who joined in March.

Out now
Profile

Out now

June 22, 2020

Cell biologist Beverley Rabbitts shares insights on life, love, sexuality, and reinvention