In Memoriam: Wiley Vale, PhD

Dr. Vale

Wylie W. Vale, Jr, PhD
1941 – 2012

Wiley W. Vale, Jr, PhD, a renowned and beloved Salk Institute and UC San Diego scientist whose pioneering work identified key brain hormones and growth factors, died on January 6 at the age of 70.

Vale was Professor and Helen McLoraine Chair in Molecular Neurobiology and Head of the Clayton Foundation Laboratories for Peptide Biology at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies.

He was highly regarded as the global authority on peptide hormones and growth factors that provide communication between the brain and endocrine system. Vale and his collaborators identified the central switchboard, a group of neuropeptides and their receptors that mediate the body’s responses to stress and stress-related disorders.

Among these neuropeptides is corticotropin releasing factor (CRF), characterized by Vale and colleagues in 1981. The work has had far-reaching effects in medical research and clinical medicine.

At UCSD, Vale held an adjunct professorship in the Division of Endocrinology and Metabolism. He contributed for many years as a researcher and educator in the School of Medicine and the Neurobiology Section of the Division of Biological Sciences.

“This is a great loss for those of us at UCSD who knew and worked with Wylie, and a great loss for endocrine science,” said Wolfgang H. Dillmann, MD, Helen M. Ranney Professor and Chair of the Department of Medicine.

“Wylie and his group of peptide chemists and neuroendocrinologists trained several PhD students in the Biomedical Sciences and Neurosciences graduate programs who have taken leadership positions in research and academia,” said Palmer Taylor, PhD.

Taylor is Sandra and Monroe Trout Professor of Pharmacology, founding Dean of the Skaggs School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences, and Associate Vice Chancellor for Health Sciences.

Vale’s coworkers and friends in the School of Medicine included numerous faculty members in the departments of reproductive medicine, neurosciences, psychiatry and surgery.

In 2004, Vale and colleagues at UCSD established the firmest link between a family of hormones that helps the body adapt to stress and possible new treatments for congestive heart failure.

Vale discovered that the hormone urocortin-2 has a positive impact on heart function, and the hormone was shown to significantly enhance heart muscle contractions. | Read the abstract of the study report in PNAS

In that effort, Vale collaborated with Drs. Kirk Peterson, Kenneth Chien and coworkers at the Seaweed Canyon Cardiovascular Physiology Laboratory and the Institute for Molecular Medicine.

Kirk L. Peterson, MD, FACP, FACC, the Edith and William M. Perlman Professor of Clinical Cardiology, is Director of the Sulpizio Cardiovascular Center, Director of the Seaweed Canyon Physiology Laboratory and professor emeritus in cardiology.

Kenneth Chien, MD, PhD, is professor emeritus in cardiology and former director of the Institute for Molecular Medicine.

Vale was a member of the National Academy of Sciences, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and the Institute of Medicine. In 1992-1993, he served as president of the Endocrine Society.

He co-founded two biotechnology companies, Neurocrine Biosciences and Acceleron Pharma, Inc.

The Vale family and the Endocrine Society have placed tribute pages on the Web where remembrances can be entered and viewed. Vale family tribute | Endocrine Society tribute

For more about Dr. Vale and his work, please see the Salk Institute press release.