Grounded in Pharmacy. Guided by Research.

Published on 06 January 2020

When Irving Boime, B.S. '64, Ph.D., arrived at St. Louis College of Pharmacy in January of 1960, he was not anticipating the career shift he would make four years later. With the right mentorship, curiosity and ambition, he discovered a path grounded in pharmacy and guided by research. Boime didn't know what he wanted to study in college, but he knew he loved the St. Louis Cardinals. He moved from Los Angeles back to his birthplace where he would meet his wife, go to school, and eventually establish himself in endocrinology and biochemistry research at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis.

Boime first enrolled at University of Missouri in 1959, but after a semester, he transferred to the College after being introduced to the profession of pharmacy by his future father-in-law. It was during his time at the College that Boime met Carl Thomas, B.S. '63, a friend who would spark his interest in pursuing a career in pharmacology research.

"Carl Thomas was a year ahead of me in school," Boime explained. "We lived in the same neighborhood and would carpool. He was a lab assistant for Dr. Reddish, the prominent microbiology professor. Carl was interested in bench-type science. We talked a lot about the pros and cons of going into retail pharmacy versus graduate school."

What was perhaps the impetus for Boime to seriously consider pursuing graduate school in pharmacology was a summer course taught by College faculty member James McCowan, Ph.D. McCowan typically taught pharmaceutical dispensing during the regular academic school year, but in the summer, he taught pharmaceutical chemistry.

"I became deeply interested in the field," Boime recalled. "It was all pharmacology, and that became a critical step for me in figuring out if I wanted to move back to L.A. and take the California boards, or go onto graduate school."

Boime applied to Purdue University's graduate program in pharmacology, following his graduation from the College in 1964. A year later, he returned to St. Louis for the birth of his daughter.

"My daughter was born at The Jewish Hospital of St. Louis," Boime said. "While mother and daughter were recovering, I walked over to the School of Medicine to check out their pharmacology department. I was a little intimidated because it is such a prestigious school."

After explaining what courses he was taking at Purdue and his interests, his future mentor at the School of Medicine encouraged him to apply. Boime did just that. He completed his Master of Science at Purdue in 1966, and he moved back to St. Louis to pursue his Doctor of Philosophy at the School of Medicine.

"When I transferred to the School of Medicine, I thought I was going to be underprepared," Boime said. "But then I realized that I was better prepared to do biology than a lot of my peers because I received an extensive background in pharmacology, biochemistry and microbiology. The College prepared me well for my postgraduate studies."

Upon receiving his Doctor of Philosophy, Boime completed his post-doctoral training at the National Institutes of Health under the direction of Philip Leder, M.D., John Emory Andrus Professor of Genetics Emeritus at Harvard Medical School. Soon after, he returned to the School of Medicine to conduct his own research, eventually publishing more than 175 publications and earning more than 25 patents.

As a graduate from both the College and the School of Medicine, Boime has always wanted to see the two institutions come together through partnerships that would expand student opportunity. The Center for Clinical Pharmacology was established in August 2015, bringing together the two institutions in an exciting endeavor to investigate safer and more effective ways to use prescription medications. Since its establishment, the center has widened its research scope and has even created more student opportunities in research through the Summer Research Scholars Program.

"The progression of the College has gone in the direction I always envisioned," Boime said. "From the physical plant to the Center for Clinical Pharmacology, I am happy to see that kind of change."

The Culmination of Decades of Work

Irving Boime, B.S. '64, Ph.D., professor of developmental biology at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, began studying hormones of the placenta and pituitary gland more than 30 years ago. Over the years, Boime has led or contributed to more than 175 publications and earned more than 25 patents, and his research has led to improvements in therapies for conditions such as infertility, growth disorders and hemophilia.

Most recently, Boime and his team developed a drug, marketed by Merck & Co., for women undergoing in vitro fertilization that extends the stability of the follicle-stimulating hormone, a hormone that stimulates egg production and is typically injected daily for at least a week. The drug requires only a single injection.


This story was first published in the fall 2019 issue of Script. Visit to read more and access previous issues.

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