Press Releases

Seattle, WA - Nov 11, 2020

Thomas N. Wight, PhD, to Retire from Benaroya Research Institute at Virginia Mason

Thomas N. Wight, PhD, director of the Matrix Biology Program at Benaroya Research Institute at Virginia Mason (BRI), will be retiring effective December 31. He joined BRI in 2004 after 22 years as a professor in the Department of Pathology at the University of Washington (UW).

During his 16 years at BRI, Dr. Wight established the Matrix Biology Program to study how the environment around cells (the extracellular matrix) contributes to the development of heart, lung and blood vessel diseases as well as diseases of the immune system such as type 1 diabetes and rheumatoid arthritis.

"I am a cell biologist and it has been great to work with the immunologists at BRI - we learn from each other and I will miss that," he said. In addition to working with his colleagues at BRI, Tom Wight has collaborated with investigators at the UW as well as around the US and throughout the world.

"Tom has played an important role in shaping BRI’s research direction and its culture of discovery through collaboration. His enthusiasm for matrix biology led all of us at BRI to think more broadly about the immune system; spearheading studies of how the milieu in which immune responses evolved play a major role in health and disease. His generosity with ideas and his enduring support of members of his research team have made him a role model for the investigators and trainees at BRI. Although Tom is formally retiring, we very much look forward to having him continue to share his knowledge and enthusiasm with all of us at BRI as an emeritus member of the faculty," said Jane Buckner, MD, president of BRI. 

Steve Ziegler, PhD, director of Academic Affairs noted, "Having Tom as a colleague changed the way I both thought of and did my science, and I will always cherish my interactions with him, and look forward to picking his brain for new ideas."

Over a notable 48-year career, Dr. Wight has published over 363 articles. He is a founding member of the International Society of Hyaluronan Sciences (ISHAS) which recognized him at their 2019 biennial conference in Cardiff, Wales with their Lifetime Achievement Award for his contributions to hyaluronan research. In 2013, at a Federation of European Biochemical Societies conference in Kos, Greece, Tom was awarded the International Union of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology (IUBMB) Medal and a Diploma of Honor from the University of Patras, Greece, for significant scientific achievements in the field of matrix pathobiology. He served as Chair of the 2008 Proteoglycan Gordon Conference and was named an Established Investigator of the American Heart Association in 1981. Tom has also served on Study Sections for the National Institutes of Health and American Heart Association as well as on several editorial boards.

In retirement, Tom will be an active Emeritus Faculty Member of BRI and continue as an Affiliate Professor of Pathology at the UW School of Medicine.

"I have had a wonderful career working at both the UW and at BRI. I hate to see it come to an end! One of the great joys has been mentoring and working with young scientists and the satisfaction of seeing them go off to develop their own careers. I like the quote by Ursula K. Le Guin from "The Left Hand of Darkness": ‘It is good to have an end to journey towards; but it is the journey that matters, in the end.’  Indeed it is the people that have made this journey not only complete, but possible. I have had a great group throughout the years and I could not have done it without them," he reflected.

Tom looks forward to enjoying more time with his wife Anna, their six children and six grandchildren as well as playing some rounds of golf.

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About Benaroya Research Institute

Benaroya Research Institute (BRI) is a world leader in human immune system research. BRI works to advance the science that will predict, prevent, reverse and cure immune system diseases like allergies, asthma, cancer, COVID-19 and autoimmune diseases. BRI accelerates discovery through laboratory breakthroughs in immunology that are then translated to clinical therapies. We believe that a breakthrough in one immune system disease can lead to progress against them all, and work tirelessly toward our vision of a healthy immune system for everyone. BRI is a world-renowned independent nonprofit research institute affiliated with Virginia Mason Franciscan Health and based in Seattle.

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