Nearly 70, Dr. Walter A. Scott, a University of Miami biochemistry and molecular biology professor, wasn’t thinking about retiring.
“The lab was his life,’’ said Dr. Gwendolyn Scott, his wife of 42 years
Scott, who conducted breakthrough HIV-AIDS research, joined the UM Miller School of Medicine faculty in 1975, and “was constantly funded’’ by National Institutes of Health, his wife said.
In early January, she said, he’d just applied for another grant.
But Walter Scott died unexpectedly at Jackson Memorial Hospital on Jan. 28, just four days before his 70th birthday. His wife said he suffered a stroke at their Coral Gables home.
Born Feb. 1, 1943 in Los Angeles and raised in Oregon, Scott was known for his work on HIV resistance to the drug AZT, and for mentoring hundreds of students during nearly 40 years of running a molecular virology research lab at UM’s Miller School.
Scott held a bachelor’s degree from the California Institute of Technology, and a doctorate in physiological chemistry from the University of Wisconsin, where he met his future wife, now a UM pediatrics professor whose work on mother-to-fetus AIDS transmission significantly reduced the disease in newborns.
She heads UM’s Division of Pediatric Infectious Disease and Immunology.
Her husband loved nature, especially birding, she said. He loved the Everglades, listening to jazz and nurturing his students.
Scott’s research focused on “the biochemical mechanisms of viral replication and antiviral drug resistance,’’ according to a UM news release. He directed the Pediatric Retro virology Laboratory for the University’s National Institutes of Health-sponsored pediatric AIDS clinical trials networks, and belonged to the “NIH’s Virology Technical Advisory Committee for the Division of AIDS and of its Review Panel for AIDS Discovery and Development of Therapeutics.’’
He completed post-doctoral fellowships at the University of California, San Francisco, and at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, where he worked with Dr. Daniel Nathans, a microbiologist who won a Nobel Prize in 1978 for the discovery of restrictive enzymes.
His wife said he became involved in HIV research in 1989.
In the news release, Miller School Dean Dr. Pascal J. Goldschmidt said Scott dedicated his life to science, to UM, and “to advancing the careers of people across this country who continue to bring honor to both. That is as much a part of his legacy as his contributions to unraveling the mysteries of biochemical mechanisms.”
Biochemistry and Molecular Biology Chair Sylvia Daunert said Scott “was the voice of reason in our department. He always had something wise to say and he could analyze any situation and come up with the right advice. He was the most popular mentor to junior faculty, and a trusted advisor to many.’’
According to William J. Whelan, the biochemistry/microbiology professor who chaired the department when Scott was recruited, Scott brought expertise in what was then the fast-developing field of recombinant DNA technology.
“He was pivotal to our success in that regard,’’ Whelan said in the news release. “He led the change of direction of the Miami Winter Symposium to focus on gene technology, beginning with the 1977 event, which has continued to this day.”
In addition to his wife, Scott is survived by sister Nancy Koroloff, of Portland; and brothers Jerry and Gene, both of Seattle.
Gwen Scott said that some of her husband’s organs were donated before the remains were cremated.
Memorial donations may be made to the Dr. Walter A. Scott Biochemistry Endowment Fund at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, P.O. Box 016960 (R-100), Miami, FL 33101.