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In 1958 as a freshman medical student at Einstein, H. Ronald Kaback, MD, grew fascinated with how molecules cross cellular membranes and epithelia—a topic decidedly removed from patient care. Fortunately, his Einstein mentor, physiologist Adele Kostellow, PhD, encouraged his passion for research. “She gave me space for my amateur experiments,” he says.

With later support from a Noble Foundation fellowship, he discovered how to create empty membrane vesicles from the bacterium Echerichia coli. He recognized that vesicles devoid of cytoplasm could become a model system for studying transport because they accomplished the phenomenon with little or no metabolism of the transported molecules.

Ronal Kaback, M.D.
H. Ronald Kaback, MD ’62
Distinguished Professor of Physiology
Distinguished Professor of Microbiology, Immunology & Molecular Genetics
David Geffen School of Medicine
University of California, Los Angeles
Einstein Distinguished Alumnus, 1988
In 1968, Dr. Kaback published an oft-cited paper introducing his vesicles. After 7 years at the NIH, he joined the Roche Institute of Molecular Biology (RIMB), where he ultimately became Chairman of Biochemistry. In 1989, he moved to the UCLA School of Medicine as Professor of Physiology and Investigator of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, focusing on the structure and mechanism of a prototypical membrane transport protein, the lactose permease of E. coli. Researchers worldwide use “Kabackosomes” to learn about membrane transport proteins involved in disease processes.

Throughout his career, Dr. Kaback has himself mentored several young researchers. “There must be close to 100,” he says. They are all creative, tenacious, and passionate about science—he requires that—but mentee Nancy Carrasco, MD, who worked with him at RIMB and is now at Yale, adds that he’s the kind of mentor who will excuse a mistake (but not the same one twice); genuinely cares about his mentees; encourages them to be independent; challenges them and is open to being challenged; and offers support even after they’ve left his lab.

Dr. Kaback has dedicated his professional life to science—and to the people who work every day for the health of our shared world.

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Albert Einstein College of Medicine’s commitment to benefit humanity extends across every dimension of our mission—from scientific research and community-based health initiatives to innovative models of education. Your contribution plays an essential role in helping us embody excellence, lead the scientific community, and foster the thousands of human connections that students, faculty, and alumni like Dr. Kaback make each day.

Dr. Kaback’s story is one of people powering people.
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