Photo by Silas Barker

Working for one of the leading institutes in the field of healthcare research and development is Dr. James Grant Keck, Beta Pi ’75. He is presently the Senior Director of Innovation and Product Development at JAX Mice Clinical and Research Services (JMCRS) for The Jackson Laboratory (JAX) in Sacramento, California.

After graduating from Penn, brother Keck earned a Master’s degree in Microbiology at North Carolina State University and his Ph.D. in Microbiology at the University of Southern California.

His career path started as a scientist at Tularik, South San Francisco, California, where he developed new methods for the identification of inhibitors in the treatment of HIV and created new methods to enhance strategies in the treatment of certain diseases including respiratory virus.

Following Tularik, he became a leader at Berlex in Richmond, California, where he helped form and then supervise a department of scientists, biochemists, and virologists, involved in the treatment of disease.

He then founded Strata Biosciences, located in Alameda, California, and assumed the position of chief scientist to develop the use of gene knockouts and expression in the field of gene research.

This led to a position of Senior Director Discovery at GeneTrace Systems, Alameda, California, furthering his personal knowledge and experience in gene research that would aid in the treatment of certain diseases.

He was then hired as and appointed Vice President Biology at Telik, Inc. in Palo Alto, California, where he supervised a group of more than 30 scientists specializing in biochemistry, cellular and molecular biology, and animal pharmacology. His leadership resulted in successful studies and research in the area of drug identification. 

After more than 12 years at Telik, he joined the Jackson Laboratory, initially as Senior Director, In Vivo Pharmacology, and then as Senior Director for JMCRS. Over the years, brother Keck and his associates have been granted two patents in his field. Other patent applications are pending. His brilliance and success have resulted in a special award. As described by Joyce Dall’Acqua Peterson, in a September 23, 2021, press release, “Jackson Laboratory President and CEO Edison Liu, M.D., has designated James Keck, Ph.D., as the first-ever President’s Innovation Fellow. JAX recently established the award to recognize highly impactful innovation and creation of intellectual property by non-faculty JAX employees. The award highlights the scientific impact and economic value created through research and product development conducted at JAX. Much of the output of this effort is then shared via JMCRS with the global biomedical research community. Keck works with immune-deficient mice developed at JAX, which may be supplemented with human stem cells or immune cells for the purpose of replicating the human immune system in a mouse for studies of cancer, immunology and infectious diseases such as HIV-AIDS or COVID-19. Keck is creating mouse-based experimental platforms that enable pharmaceutical researchers to simultaneously evaluate both the safety and efficacy of a given treatment against the genetic profile of a specific patient’s tumor or other tissues.”

The many years of work in the biotech industry prepared brother Keck for his position with JAX. He explains his past employment makes him “relatively unique at JAX, in that I actually worked in industry. I worked in start-up companies, biotechs and pharmaceutical companies doing drug discovery. I saw at JAX the opportunity to develop their mouse platforms as a tool for drug discovery. Our group tries to anticipate where these industries are going to be in three years. We don’t wait and then develop something when they need it. We anticipate it, build it, strengthen it, and then when it’s needed, they embrace it. We try to be on the crest of the wave.”

Peterson presents a brief history of JAX, “JAX was founded in 1929 in Bar Harbor, Maine, as one of the first cancer genetics research institutions. The research faculty has grown to more than 70 principal investigators, whose studies of cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, diabetes and many other diseases and conditions are funded by research grants from the National Institutes of Health.”

To receive such personal recognition, bestowed by a prestigious institution such as JAX, is an honor few attain. Congratulations to brother Keck on his accomplishments and his successful career.