Wednesday, May 20, 2009

"'Medicine Cabinet' transplant digs Memphis' Southern scientific culture"

Lifestyle section of "Memphis Business Journal"
Fall 2008

The cultural iconography of Beale Street and Graceland, Tigers basketball, the Mississippi River and Southern hospitality characterize Memphis, Tennessee, for many people. But for Dr. Ronald Morton Jr., it's science.
GTx, a biopharmaceutical company headquartered in Memphis, hired Morton in April 2007 to be vice president and Chief Medical Officer.
Morton received his bachelor's and medical degrees from Johns Hopkins University and completed his urology training and fellowship at the Brady Urological Institute. Morton next performed a Texas two-step, serving as clinical director of the Baylor adult urology program and as chief of urology at the Houston VA Medical Center.
Before moving to Memphis, Morton served as professor of surgery, chief of urology and director of urologic oncology for the Cancer Institute in New Jersey at the Robert Wood Johnson Medical School. He also held the Conzen Chair for Clinical Research and directed the New Jersey Center for Clinical and Translational Sciences.
Morton reached the top of his field in New Jersey, referred to as "the medicine cabinet" of the United States because of the many pharmaceutical companies, and, at a time when he was thinking about moving in the direction of pharmaceuticals, he got a call from an old friend Dr. Mitchell Steiner.
Steiner worked alongside Morton in residency at Johns Hopkins, and wound up as Chief Executive Officer of GTx. In 2007, when Steiner asked Morton to join GTx, it was a case of good timing.
Morton has devoted his life to research in the area of prostate cancer, which is the No. 1 form of cancer diagnosed in men and the second highest type of cancer leading to death among males. Morton's interest in prostate cancer began when he saw that some men could live generally unaffected lives with prostate cancer while others died soon after diagnosis. He was intrigued by this and wanted to know how prostate cancer could best be treated.
The move to GTx was a natural fit with Morton's focus on prostate cancer. He can continue working toward his dream of successfully treating and preventing prostate cancer. Currently, GTx is in the process of testing a drug, Toremifene, which is said to help balance the side effects men experience from hormonal therapy in cancer treatment as well as possibly preventing prostate cancer among men with premalignant lesions known as HGPIN.
Morton's favorite thing about coming to work every day at GTx is the intellectually stimulating and challenging environment that comes from working with the highly qualified staff and creative minds on board.
"I know I'll be around bright people, and at least one of us is going to have a good idea," Morton says, laughing. "GTx offers an environment where people can be creative and think outside of the box."
Morton is excited about the developments at GTx as well as those of the entire bioscience community in Memphis, but he does not prescribe to the notion of all work and no play: Morton describes himself as an "addicted golfer — even through he does not get to play as often as he would like. He also enjoys the South Main Historic Arts District, the new restaurants and the character of downtown Memphis.
"Memphis is large enough that there are plenty of things to do but small enough to get a handle on where things are and what is available socially and culturally," Morton says.
It also helped Morton's transition knowing Steiner and some of the other members of the GTx team before moving here.
Morton is married with two children, one in high school and one in college. His wife will be joining him in Memphis as soon as their son finishes high school in New Jersey.

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