Dr. George Bailey, OSU professor emeritus in environmental and molecular toxicology and former LPI principal investigator, died on October 20th after a serious illness. He retired in 2008 after a nearly 30-year career at Oregon State University and after over five years as a principal investigator in LPI.
George earned a B.S. in chemistry at the University of Southern California, followed by a Ph.D. in biochemistry from the University of California-Berkeley. He joined OSU in 1979 as an assistant professor in the Department of Food Science and Technology and was honored in 1998 with the title of Distinguished Professor in the Department of Environmental and Molecular Toxicology. He served as the director of OSU's Marine and Freshwater Biomedical Sciences Center from 1985 to 2002. George published over 150 papers in peer-reviewed scientific journals and won several awards for outstanding research, including the prestigious Prince Hitachi Prize in Comparative Oncology in 2001. On November 12, 2014, he was awarded posthumously the Discovery Award by the Medical Research Foundation of Oregon Health & Science University, an honor previously bestowed on LPI’s Drs. Balz Frei and Joe Beckman. Over the years, he has also mentored many graduate students at OSU.
In 1995, George was one of several members of a faculty advisory committee established by Dr. Richard Scanlan, OSU's then-Dean of Research, to advise OSU's then-President, Dr. John Byrne, on the possible establishment of the Linus Pauling Institute at OSU. Those deliberations were successful, and the Linus Pauling Institute moved from Palo Alto, California, in 1996 to become a research institute at OSU.
George was especially interested in how dietary phytochemicals (plant-derived chemicals that may affect health) inhibit cancer in animal models and the extrapolation of that research to humans. Using the rainbow trout model, George and his colleagues were able to achieve unprecedented statistical power using the dose-dose matrix experimental design in which various doses of carcinogens are tested against various doses of phytochemicals that are expected to protect against cancer. He also assembled the most comprehensive database of carcinogen-DNA adducts as early biomarkers for cancer chemoprotection by phytochemicals in any animal model.
George and his colleagues showed that liver cancer in trout induced by aflatoxin, a carcinogen formed by mold that grows on damp nuts and grain, could be inhibited by chlorophyllin through a blocking mechanism. Aflatoxin binds to chlorophyllin in the gut, and the complex is harmlessly excreted, preventing its absorption into the blood stream and delivery to the liver. George and his colleagues conducted a human trial in China where people are unavoidably exposed to dietary aflatoxin because of the improper storage of grain and, consequently, have a very high incidence of liver cancer. The research team measured cancer biomarkers in the urine, which were decreased by about half in people taking chlorophyllin supplements. Those results suggested that a simple and inexpensive intervention may help protect people from liver cancer caused by aflatoxin.
The Linus Pauling Institute will honor George through the establishment of the George Bailey Graduate Student Fellowship in Cancer Research and has set a goal of raising $250,000 to endow this fellowship. “The students who receive this fellowship will be doubly inspired,” said Balz Frei, the LPI director and Joan H. Facey Linus Pauling Institute Professor, “by those who have invested in their future, and by George’s deep commitment to education, improved health, and rigorous scientific study.”