Franz Simon, M.D. Award

Franz Simon’s essential passion was the world of inquiry. This was his window on the world. He approached research in a generative way infused with humor and good sportsmanship. His involvement with the Kern Lipid Conference stemmed from his primary commitment to young investigators, his belief in collaborative science, and his fascination with membrane physiology.

Franz graduated from Pomona College in 1958. He went on to UCSF for medical training, graduating in 1962. He did his Internal Medicine training with Gordon Meikeljohn at University of Colorado Medical Center, going on to a Gastroenterology Fellowship with Wade Volwiler and L.F. Fenster at the University of Washington Medical Center, Seattle. In 1966 he was drafted and provided medical care at the Madigan U. S. Army Hospital, Tacoma, WA. He returned to Gastroenterology with Win Arias at Albert Einstein College of Medicine from 1967-71. In 1971 Franz returned to the University of Colorado as Assistant Professor of Medicine under the mentorship of Fred Kern. Franz continued at UC for the rest of his career, including his term as Head of Gastroenterology. Franz was pivotal in developing the V.A. Alcohol Research Center and the Hepatobiliary Center. He worked diligently at a national level for AFCR, NIH, ASCI, ALF, AASLD, Hepatology, and Gastroenterology. On his sabbaticals, he was a visiting scientist at the Max Planck Institute for Biophysics in Frankfurt, Germany, the Molecular-Cellular Developmental Biology Department at University of Colorado, Boulder, and at the Karolinska Institute, Stockholm, Sweden.

Franz’s Albert Einstein mentor, Win Arias, places Franz’s life’s work in context: Franz was a great scientist, critical, analytical, and avant-garde in his ideas and experimental designs. His research was never of the "me too" design, he was independent....or did what others had done but with a "newer or better machine". When he was at Einstein the liver world was just beginning to appreciate the term cholestasis. Most believed that all forms of cholestasis were due to some kind of obstruction to bile secretion at the small bile ducts. Franz was way out ahead of the pack in believing that cholestasis was a disease of bile secretory failure at the level of the liver cell. In other words, the problem was INSIDE the hepatocyte and not in the bile ducts. BUT no one knew much about bile secretion....what went on inside the cell and in the plasma membrane. We postulated that there must be some kind of transporter or carrier in the apical canalicular plasma membrane. Franz tried to find it....and did a prescient CLASSIC study looking at protein turnover in the canalicular plasma membrane of normal and cholestatic rats. We did not find the transporter....took another 25 years before that happened. But Franz's thinking and critical experiments made folks understand that the answers were INSIDE the cell and IN the plasma membrane. His later work with estrogens and control of the transporters were also way ahead of the field....and, in some respects, the full impact of his findings linking growth hormone, the CNS and biliary secretion are only now being the era of genome wide analysis. Franz’s generative nature extended past medical research into his personal life. His memory is now cherished by his wife, Susan, their five children and three grandchildren. He will be forever missed. In his memory, the Kern Board has established a poster award for the best poster presented during the conference

In Memory
Franz Simon, M.D. (May 28, 1936 – February 29, 2012)