Chapter 05: Leaving Johnson and Johnson to Return to MD Anderson

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Chapter 05: Leaving Johnson and Johnson to Return to MD Anderson

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In this chapter, Dr. Arlinghaus explains why he left Johnson and Johnson in 1986 and returned to MD Anderson.He first provides some background regarding conflicts with Dr. Demakowsky, head of Virology, that had contributed to his departure from the institution.Next, Dr. Arlinghaus explains why Johnson and Johnson was no longer a good fit for his interests.Dr. Arlinghaus explains that MD Anderson hired him back in 1986 to form the new Department of Molecular Pathology.Dr. Arlinghaus asserts his intention at that time to recruit "the best people on the planet" and he talks about the qualities of the colleagues he admired at Johnson and Johnson and Scripps Laboratory.Dr. Arlinghaus explains that he returned as a Department Chair, with the support of then-president Dr. Charles LeMaistre, who by-passed any decision-making by the Vice President for Research, Dr. Frederick Becker, who had significant differences with Dr. Arlinghaus.

Identifier

ArlinghausR_01_20140321_C05

Publication Date

3-21-2014

Publisher

The Making Cancer History® Voices Oral History Collection, The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center

City

Houston, Texas

Topics Covered

The Interview Subject's Story - Joining MD Anderson/Coming to Texas; The Researcher; Joining MD Anderson; Professional Path; Institutional Politics; Evolution of Career; Controversies; Business of Research; The History of Health Care, Patient Care

Disciplines

History of Science, Technology, and Medicine | Oncology | Oral History

Transcript

Ralph B. Arlinghaus, PhD:

So, I need to back up a little bit and — and say Dr. Demakowski, who didn’t want me to be at MD Anderson – that’s my words, not his - but …

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

Dr. De – Demakowski?

Ralph B. Arlinghaus, PhD:

He was the one that was Chairman of the Department of Virology who was studying leukemias including chronic myeloid leukemia. He thought that I shouldn’t be competing with him and I convinced him that my work would be so much different than his work, that I would be adding to his work, not competing with it. And, he finally signed off on the piece of paper for the Committee that decided that this new faculty member called Ralph Arlinghaus could then begin to work on leukemia using his methods.

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

Now, was — was this kind of discussion with Dr. Demakowski, was that when you first came to MD Anderson?

Ralph B. Arlinghaus, PhD:

First.

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

Okay, okay. So, there was some concern about overlap …

Ralph B. Arlinghaus, PhD:

There was.

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

… of territory at that point.

Ralph B. Arlinghaus, PhD:

There was.

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

Yeah.

Ralph B. Arlinghaus, PhD:

He was protecting his territory.

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

Sure. So …

Ralph B. Arlinghaus, PhD:

Remember at the time, he was also claiming that there was a human cancer virus which he named ESP 1 after his trainee, Elizabeth Priory, ESP 1, that turned out to be published papers – I have to be careful now – was on the wrong track, let’s put it that way. And, that was ess — that was essentially found out by others, not me, because I wasn’t working on human CML. I didn’t have to work on CML. I had to work on Rauscher leukemia virus …

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

Right. Sure.

Ralph B. Arlinghaus, PhD:

… because I knew what to do there so I had to — wait Groffen and Heisterkamp in the early eighties to tell me about …

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

Right.

Ralph B. Arlinghaus, PhD:

… the — the Gag B — I mean, the BCR protein that was fused to Gag.

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

So, the story you were telling earlier is, you know, kind of fleshing out your work when you were in California. So, this — that span of time was 1983 to 1986.

Ralph B. Arlinghaus, PhD:

Right.

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

So, what made you come back to MD Anderson?

Ralph B. Arlinghaus, PhD:

Interesting story. I had never planned to come back.

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

Mhmm.

Ralph B. Arlinghaus, PhD:

Not because I didn’t like MD Anderson but I figured I had a lifetime job with J&J, they were going to pay me …

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

Right.

Ralph B. Arlinghaus, PhD:

… then we were going to have to write another grant again. Okay. Then something bad happened to J&J. You can read about it. Somebody in Chicago opened up a Tylenol bottle took out the Tylenol and put cyanide in them, five or six capsules, put the cap back on, put it back on the shelf, and then, I think two people died of cyanide poisoning, blamed on Tylenol bottles from J&J.

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

And this was in the …

Ralph B. Arlinghaus, PhD:

This has got to be now …

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

… sometime …

Ralph B. Arlinghaus, PhD:

… ’84, ‘85.

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

Yeah, I remember that story.

Ralph B. Arlinghaus, PhD:

I don’t think those people ever have been caught, whoever did that. But, J&J decided that we couldn’t afford to keep a guy like Arlinghaus and his team to work on other things. We need to protect our Tylenol product line, we need to make other product lines to make money because we’re losing money. Because now, 100,000 people every month were buying Tylenol and now …

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

Yeah, I remember the stories …

Ralph B. Arlinghaus, PhD:

Not many …

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

… about it. Yeah. People were scared.

Ralph B. Arlinghaus, PhD:

Scared.

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

They were.

Ralph B. Arlinghaus, PhD:

And, J&J lost a lot of money and a lot of business. And they came to us in California and said, “You guys have to start working on generating new products.” I didn’t tell them right away. I — I said to the — they brought a new guy in from Israel and I said to him, “You know, this is new territory for me. I’m — I’m in the discovery business, I’m not in product development.” I — I don’t — I don’t even know if I could do it. I probably could. But I don’t want to do it. So, I started looking for a job. I didn’t tell them that. I started looking for a job and I almost went to Abbott. I made three trips to Abbott in Chicago. They wanted to hire me.

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

And, Abbott is …

Ralph B. Arlinghaus, PhD:

Abbott Laboratories.

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

Okay.

Ralph B. Arlinghaus, PhD:

Famous pharmaceutical company.

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

Okay.

Ralph B. Arlinghaus, PhD:

Florida, Baton Rouge, New Orleans. I looked at jobs to leave and go back to academia. Instead of having a research institute, Scripps Clinic, associated with J&J. And, I was walking in the hallway of my lab in California and the guy — the pathologist there named Bob Nakamora. I didn’t know him very well but he knew me because of my – what do you call it – whatever the — localized fame, you know. I am not — I wasn’t a famous man. I was well known in some areas, right. So, he said, “Hey,” something like this: “Hey, Arlinghaus, you want to go back to Texas?” I said, “What’s the deal?” He said, “Well, MD Anderson is looking to hire somebody and shall I give them your name?”

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

Wow.

Ralph B. Arlinghaus, PhD:

And I sa — I said — “Bob,” I said, “That would — that would be great.” Because the cyanide thing, Tylenol had already gone underway and our budget was collapsed …

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

Yeah.

Ralph B. Arlinghaus, PhD:

… and they wanted me to work on things that I didn’t want to work on. I spent all my years — I was going to work on what I wanted to work on. That’s not because I was egotistical. Because, all my training led me to somewhere. I was on a mission, remember? I wanted to cure CML, which I haven’t, still haven’t. But, that’s what I wanted to do. I didn’t want to make drugs for J&J. So, I left and went back to MD Anderson.

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

So, how did that happen? Who — who did you contact about this new position …

Ralph B. Arlinghaus, PhD:

Dr. Patakis …

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

Okay.

Ralph B. Arlinghaus, PhD:

… who was Chairman of the Division of Pathology before — that was before pathology merged with lab medicine, remember? We had the Division of Surgery, and the Division of – I can’t even think of all the names of these Divisions – but you — you know them better than I do. But, anyway, there — there turned out there was a Division of Lab Medicine and a Division of Pathology, and Patakis, who’s a great guy, hired me to come back to MD Anderson and they formed a new department …

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

So, …

Ralph B. Arlinghaus, PhD:

… in 1986 called the Department of Molecular Pathology. I named it. And that’s what I wanted to do. I wanted to study — hire people that would study the — the molecular details of various cancers. I couldn’t cover them all …

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

Right.

Ralph B. Arlinghaus, PhD:

… but I was going to try to get the best people on the planet …

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

Mhmm.

Ralph B. Arlinghaus, PhD:

… to come work in our department, get grant support, and study whatever they want to study on how … I hired a guy – he’s now full professor - ____ works on reactive oxygen and its — its involvement in — in cancer. So, they brought us in and others I hired from Harvard …

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

So, can I ask you — I mean, you must have had some interesting conversations with people in 1985 or ’86 when you thinking about coming back. They say, “Hey, Dr. Arlinghaus, I mean, you … you …

Ralph B. Arlinghaus, PhD:

They said …

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

… you’re back.”

Ralph B. Arlinghaus, PhD:

____ (over-talking) they said, “What the hell are you leaving the glory land of southern California to come back to — are you crazy?” No, they would say things like that to me.

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

Yeah, that’s interesting.

Ralph B. Arlinghaus, PhD:

I would smile and say, “Well …

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

Yeah.

Ralph B. Arlinghaus, PhD:

… things changed.” I — maybe if I got to know them better, I’d tell them a little bit about the cyanide deal, …

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

Right.

Ralph B. Arlinghaus, PhD:

… you know, and if — if not — if we didn’t get that deep, I wouldn’t mention it …

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

Sure.

Ralph B. Arlinghaus, PhD:

… and …

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

Sure. Now, …

Ralph B. Arlinghaus, PhD:

.. I’d still be at J&J if somebody hadn’t put Tyl — cyanide in Tylenol. Because they liked me and they liked what I did. We used to — there were people that worked for Dick Lerner, they were doing projects that didn’t work out and I found out what they were doing — not me. The team that I hired …

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

Mhmm.

Ralph B. Arlinghaus, PhD:

… were all legitimate Ph.D. scientists. We were — we were known for being – trying to think of the words – good scientists, honest, straightforward, tell it like it is. And, I did. And — so the people at J&J, they liked me. So, if somebody didn’t put cyanide in Tylenol, I’d probably still be there. I’d be in New Jersey doing some administrative job I don’t want to do. And I probably would have said no, I don’t want to do it.

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

So, when you came back in 1986, how — what did you see about the institution. How had it changed in those few years …

Ralph B. Arlinghaus, PhD:

Well, first of all, I came back as Chair.

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

Right.

Ralph B. Arlinghaus, PhD:

Now, they had a search committee to find a new Chair of the Department of Tumor Virology which was formed up, and I was second in line. And I want — the — the head of research didn’t like me at MD Anderson. So he, when the — the first candidate finally turned him down, the second candidate was in-house, Ralph Arlinghaus, he disbanded the search. And, he had a meeting …

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

And this was Frederick Becker at the time.

Ralph B. Arlinghaus, PhD:

Yes, it was. I wasn’t going to use his name …

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

I — I’ve interviewed him, yeah.

Ralph B. Arlinghaus, PhD:

But …

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

Sorry, I didn’t …

Ralph B. Arlinghaus, PhD:

That’s alright. No, that’s fine. I just don’t like to — I don’t like to …

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

Yeah.

Ralph B. Arlinghaus, PhD:

… I don’t like to talk bad about people.

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

0 Well, I mean, these kinds of, you know, butting of heads is normal in big institutions, too.

Ralph B. Arlinghaus, PhD:

So, he did some very important things for this institution and so — anyway, Mickey LeMaistre bypassed Fred Becker and hired a new Chair in his division of research that was Ralph Arlinghaus and Fred Becker would not give me the chance to compete for a job three years earlier.

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

Interesting.

Ralph B. Arlinghaus, PhD:

So, I didn’t say a thing to him. I didn’t smile. I just kept my head down, got my appointment, got my positions through Fred Becker from Mickey LeMaistre and so, I bypassed Fred Becker.

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

So this — so Dr. LeMaistre was very, very supportive of …

Ralph B. Arlinghaus, PhD:

Oh, yeah.

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

… what you were doing.

Ralph B. Arlinghaus, PhD:

Oh, yeah. I’ll never forget when I resigned at the budget meeting, when I was Acting Chair of the Tumor Virology Department, and when they had the — I’ll never forget it — neither will LeMaistre, they were done with all the budget information, I was Acting Chair, and I said, “Are we done? I don’t want to break up your …” I said, “I want to tell you one more thing.” I said, “I’m going to resign next month.” And I told them what I was doing, going to work for J&J, starting a new lab out there, new company, start — continue the work on leukemia there. And – I don’t want to embarrass LeMaistre – but his face turned the pinkest pink. I’m not — I don’t see pink very well but he was shocked. And clearly didn’t want me to leave. He didn’t say it, because Becker is in the room, right? So, Becker is just happy as all get out, because what he told me, “Arlinghaus, since — since ___ candidate left, there’s nothing for you here at MD Anderson.” And I took him at his word and there wasn’t.

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

Right.

Ralph B. Arlinghaus, PhD:

And I found a good job somewhere else …

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

Sure.

Ralph B. Arlinghaus, PhD:

… to do what I wanted to do, somewhere else. And so, when Patakis must have went to LeMaistre – and I don’t know what was said – but I got everything I wanted, and more, to come back. I didn’t burn any bridges when I left. I didn’t say bad things to Becker, I still don’t. He — he — he’s in my department. I’m no longer Department Chair but I treated him well.

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

Yeah. Yeah.

Ralph B. Arlinghaus, PhD:

I did.

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

Well, I mean, it’s like a family. You got live together.

Ralph B. Arlinghaus, PhD:

You know, I wasn’t about to — I don’t have time ...

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

Yeah.

Ralph B. Arlinghaus, PhD:

… for that.

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Chapter 05: Leaving Johnson and Johnson to Return to MD Anderson

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