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Environmental Factor

Environmental Factor

Your Online Source for NIEHS News

February 2016

Pulmonary biologist Paul Nettesheim dies at age 82

Internationally recognized pulmonary biologist and long-time NIEHS researcher Paul Nettesheim, M.D., passed away Jan. 16.

Paul Nettesheim, M.D., beloved husband, father, scientist, mentor, and colleague, passed away peacefully at his home on Jan. 16, due to a brain tumor. He is survived by his wife, Barbara, and sons Ulrich of Los Angeles, Klaus of Durham, North Carolina, and Christoph of Ventura, California, and nine grandchildren.

Nettesheim’s contributions to NIEHS were numerous and significant. He came to NIEHS in 1977, and served as head of the Laboratory of Pulmonary Pathobiology, he stepped up to serve as the acting scientific director in 2000-2001, then as the senior science advisor to the institute director from 2001 until he retired in 2003.

Internationally recognized researcher

As a researcher in pulmonary biology, Nettesheim was internationally recognized. In 2002, he received the Humboldt Research Award, a prestigious lifetime career achievement award for his outstanding contributions to science. “Paul made seminal contributions to our understanding of the adverse effects of environmental agents on the respiratory system, particularly abnormal growth in the airways induced by carcinogens, as well as the process of differentiation of airway epithelial cells,” said Anton Jetten, Ph.D., head of the NIEHS Immunity, Inflammation, and Disease Laboratory.

One of Nettesheim’s important achievements was the development of new experimental models for studying cell behavior, which enabled better assessment of environmental risks to health and supported the development of novel therapies. The more than 220 scientific papers he published illustrated consistent cutting-edge thinking, and many of his publications came from his work at NIEHS.

Highly regarded colleague and mentor

Highly regarded by his national and international colleagues for his objectivity, scientific knowledge, and research excellence, Nettesheim led productive teams of scientists, and mentored and trained numerous researchers who now carry on his work to improve human health. Trainees and colleagues sought his counsel, and Nettesheim played important advisory roles throughout his career.

Nettesheim was born 82 years ago in Cologne, Germany and completed his studies at the University of Bonn. The family moved to Oak Ridge, Tennessee in 1962, where he joined Oak Ridge National Laboratory as a research biologist. He served as head of the Respiratory Carciogenesis Group there from 1969 to 1977.

In lieu of flowers, his family requests that any donations in Nettesheim’s memory be made to the Carol Woods Charitable Fund in care of Carol Woods, 750 Weaver Dairy Road, Chapel Hill, NC 27514, or to the Triangle Land Conservancy, 514 S. Duke Street, Durham, NC 27701.

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