Featured News

Obituary: Karen Seibert, PhD

Dr. Karen Seibert, Professor of Anesthesiology, Pathology and Immunology, and Genetics, and Executive Director of the Center for Clinical Pharmacology (CCP) in our department, passed away Monday, November 9, 2020, after a battle with cancer. 
As anyone who knew Karen can appreciate, she was a true force of nature – brilliant with a deeply inquisitive mind, a wonderful sense of humor, and a remarkable ability to bring people together and form partnerships. When she was recruited to our department to be the Co-Director of the CCP, she embraced it with her usual tenacity and entrepreneurial spirit. She worked through all of the challenges of establishing an inter-institutional venture and cut through administrative barricades with a fierce determination that nothing would get in the way of this very important mission. Karen deserves the credit for where the CCP is today: she successfully recruited a talented, dynamic cadre of faculty and trainees who bring years of experience in drug discovery and development including drug mechanisms, medicinal chemistry, pharmacokinetics, pharmacodynamics, pharmacogenetics, pharmacometrics, drug development, and drug regulation. Last year the CCP received the 2020 BMO Harris Bank Spirit of St. Louis Award, which honors organizations that embrace risk-taking, innovation, cutting-edge technology, or industry best practices to extend St. Louis’ rich history and global reputation as a hub of innovation and forward-looking vision. We could not have been more fortunate than to have someone of Karen’s caliber lead this fruitful and meaningful venture, and she will be deeply missed. 
Prior to her role with our department and the CCP, Karen had already enjoyed an illustrious career. She received her undergraduate degree from Northwestern University, a Master of Science in pharmacology from the University of Toledo College of Pharmacy, followed by a PhD from Vanderbilt University School of Medicine. She then pursued a postdoctoral fellowship here at WUSM before joining Monsanto in 1991. Karen was known as one of the principal investigators who identified the arthritis and pain drug, celecoxib. In studies initiated at Washington University in the late 1980s, Karen and colleagues were the first to describe a novel enzyme involved in pain and inflammation (COX-2). These discoveries led to the development of specific inhibitors of the COX-2 enzyme that provided significant improvement over existing therapies for patients with arthritis. Later Karen developed and led the clinical genomics group known as Genomics and Pathology Services (GPS) at WUSM. As Director of GPS, she led an effort to develop genomic-based clinical tests for use in the diagnosis and treatment of patients with cancer and other diseases, overseeing numerous clinical research programs with potential for improvements in diagnosis or treatment of disease, especially in the area of cancer and rare disease research. Prior to re-joining Washington University in 2010, Karen spent nearly twenty years in the pharmaceutical industry, most recently as Vice President of Research and Development for Pfizer at the St. Louis Laboratories, overseeing dozens of research programs in multiple therapeutic areas. Once she was back at WUSM, Karen also served as the Associate Director of Shared Resources for the Siteman Comprehensive Center. 
Karen published extensively internationally in the areas of inflammation, pain, and cancer research, and co-authored nearly one hundred scholarly publications. She was recognized in 2000 with the Edgar Queeny Prize by the Monsanto Company for excellence in science and technology, in recognition of her contributions to COX-2 research, and in 2002 she received the PhRMA Discoverer’s Award. In 2008, she was named the “St Louis Health Care Hero” for her contributions to drug discovery and development and was also awarded the 2013 Outstanding Scientific Leadership Award from the St. Louis Academy of Science. Just last week, Dr. Eberlein officially renamed her position at Siteman, in perpetuity, as the “Karen Seibert Associate Director of Shared Resources.” Additionally, the “Karen Seibert Lifetime Achievement Award” was created, and Karen was honored as the inaugural recipient.
Karen was an incredibly kind human being, a distinguished scholar, an exceptional mentor and leader, and truly one of a kind. Our condolences go out to her family, especially her husband Bob, and all of her many friends.