Origin and development of the research group at the Department of Biochemistry, School of Medicine, National University of La Plata (from 1956 to 1981) .
This research group, which further developed into INIBIOLP, started in 1956 when the Department of Biochemistry was reorganized. At that time, Dr. Rodolfo R. Brenner was the Head. He applied to that position after Dr. Bernardo Houssay´s suggestion encouraging him to start and develop investigation in the field of basic Biochemistry. At that time Dr. Ricardo R. Rodríguez was the Director of the Institute of Physiology, including the Chairs of Biochemistry and Physiology with Biophysics. Dr. Brenner and Dr.Rodríguez were the first full time professors. Other pioneers worked hard with them: Drs Néstor Bottino, Raúl O. Pefuffo, Osvaldo Mercuri and María Elena De Tomás. Later they became associate professors, and Dr. Mercuri was appointed as Head Professor in 1988. .
In those early years there were big changes in teaching as well as in investigation. New laboratories and animal facilities were built, full-time teaching staff. Scientific investigation involved training and development, firstly at the Institute and then in excellent laboratories abroad. Training included lectures in congresses, conferences of native and international investigators who had been or later were awarded with the Nobel Prize. The rapid evolution was supported by Deans of the School of Medicine and Presidents of the University.
CONICET was founded in 1958, this fact led to improve the organization of research in different universities. Later in 1961, the Career of Scientific Investigator was opened on the basis of proper analysis of skills and hard work of its members. Indeed, this attracted young investigators, some of them were biochemists, Gladys Chiappe, Mario Nervi, Angel Catalá, Ricardo Pollero, Sixta Ayala, Juan Carlos Castuma, Alicia Leikin, Sara Actis Dato, Ethel Romero, and some physicians, Irma N. Tacconi and María J. Tacconi. At the end of the 60´s, there was a solid pioneer group working in biochemical investigation at the UNLP. .
Investigation was focused on the Biochemistry and Lipid metabolism. Those first studies dealt with the fatty acid composition in several terrestrial and aquatic, vertebrate and invertebrate animal tissues as well as in other organisms including vegetables. Then, important contributions were done in the field of essential polyethilenic fatty acids in animal nutrition and in the biosynthesis of unsaturated fatty acids. The existence of fatty acid families was demonstrated, and it was possible to understand that the regulatory mechanisms played key roles in the synthesis control. The importance of the essential fatty acids was studied in both testicular maturation and adrenal glands. Then, the metabolism of tumor cells was investigated, and in 1969 new studies on cell culture and protists were started. Pioneer works that demonstrated insulin role and other hormones in the unsaturated fatty acid biosynthesis and cellular composition are worth mentioning. In 1965 enzymological studies were published as a result of the availability of centrifuges, ultracentrifuges and other equipments which had been financially supported by national and international institutions. With regard to this fact, CONICET , the National Institute of Health and the Commitee of Scientific Research of the Province of Buenos Aires must be acknowledged. These contributions were and still are essential for scientific research. In 1971, these groups of research moved to the new labs located in the principal building of the School of Medicine. Young graduate students joined the groups, and studies on the lipid metabolism and composition of marine and freshwater fish, shellfish and diatoms as well, were started. Studies on lipids in insects particularly of Triatoma infestans were started in order to investigate Chagas disease vector; four proteins in hemolymph, composition, metabolism and function of cuticle, were determined. At the end of the 70´s, studies on the protein-protein interaction in biological membranes and their effect on the cellular function were started.
07-17-1922 │ 07-03-2018
He was born on 17th July 1922 in Banfield, Province of Buenos Aires, Argentina. As an outstanding student, he graduated at the Colegio Nacional de Buenos Aires in 1940 winning three gold medals due to his academic achievement. In 1946 he graduated as Doctor in Chemistry at the School of Exact, Physical and Natural Sciences (FCEFyN), of the University of Buenos Aires (UBA), obtaining another gold medal as best graduate. He had his first contact with lipids by means of his doctoral thesis ‘Chemical composition of Argentinian olive oils’, directed by the Prof. Dr. Pedro Cattaneo.
During 1946 and 1954 he worked for the Department of Bromatology and Industrial Analysis of FCEFyN, first as a Graduate Assistant and then as an authorized Professor. At the same time, he was in charge of the Section of Industrial Toxicology at the Institute of Medical-Technological Investigations and at the Institute of Public Health. In this first period he studied the composition of lipids of several freshwater fish, a subject in which he directed five doctoral theses and published a dozen of original papers, mainly in the Annals of the Argentine Chemical Association and in Industry & Chemist.
In 1954 he obtained a postdoctoral fellowship of the British Council to work on ‘Chemistry and Biochemistry of Lipids’ with the Professor John A. Lovern at the Torry Research Institute of Aberdeen in Scotland. Upon his return, he obtained by competitive examination the post of Head Professor of the Department of Biochemistry of the School of Medical Sciences until the year 1988. Almost from scratch, he created a research group in this Department which in the mid 1960s reaches wide international renown, in special because of his works on biosynthesis of poli-unsaturated fatty acids. Since in 1961 it was created the career of scientific investigator of the National Scientific and Technical Research Council (CONICET), Dr. Brenner was accepted as Independent Investigator, and after subsequent promotions he became Superior Investigator in the year 1973.
Being a prolific investigator, he directed 45 doctoral theses. He was the author of over 300 scientific works published in national and international journals, as well as many other communications presented at different conferences and scientific meetings. He lectured over 150 conferences in different countries of America, Europe and Asia.
In recognition of his work and career, he received more than 30 awards, among which we can highlight: Award of Fundación Campomar in 1972; Herrero Ducloux Award of the National Academy of Exact, Physical and Natural Sciences in 1974, Konex Prize granted to the best 5 biochemists of Argentina in 1983; Gold Medal “G. Burns and Von Euler” granted in London in 1985; Awards “Alfredo Sordelli” in 1985 and “JJ Kyle” in 1990 of the Argentine Chemical Association; Supelco AOCS Research Award of the American Oil Chemists’ Society in Baltimore in 1990; TWAS 2001 Award in Basic Medical Sciences of the Academy of Sciences of the Third World in New Delhi, India, 2002; 2009 Houssay Career Award in the area of Chemistry, Biochemistry and Molecular Biology in Buenos Aires, 2010; and the Distinction Investigator of Argentine Nation, also in 2010. He was honorary member of the Society of Biology of Tucumán from 1987, of the Argentine Society of Biochemical Investigations (SAIB) from 1990, and of the Argentine Society of Biophysics (SAB) also in 1990.
He was Senior Investigator Emeritus of CONICET and Head Professor Emeritus of UNLP. He held the position of Established Academic of the National Academy of Exact, Physical and Natural Sciences, of the National Academy of Sciences of Buenos Aires, and of the National Academy of Pharmacy and Biochemistry, as well as a Academic of the Medicine Academy of Córdoba, Argentina.
It is worth mentioning his productive role in the management and promotion not only of the science but also of the university teaching. In 1965, together with Drs. Luis F. Leloir, Andrés Stoppani and Federico Cumar creates the Argentine Society of Biochemical Research (SAIB), being its President in the period 1971-72. He was Counselling Director of CONICET, Adviser and Substitute Dean of the School of Medical Sciences, UNLP, and member of several scientific and academic committees of CONICET, UNLP, UBA and the Committee of Scientific Research (CIC) of the Province of Buenos Aires, Argentina. He was the South American representative at the Steering Committee of the International Conferences on the Bioscience of Lipids (ICBL). Among his achievements and works, one of the most important ones is the creation in the year 1982 and the subsequent consolidation of the Institute of Biochemical Research of La Plata (INIBIOLP), executing unit under CONICET and UNLP, of which he was the Director until the year 2003. Since 2015, this institution is called “Prof. Dr. Rodolfo R. Brenner” in recognition of his career.