In memoriam to Paul Kelly (1943-2018)

It is with great sadness that we learned that Professor Paul Kelly passed away on Wednesday November 28, 2018. Paul Kelly was an important collaborator of the Fondation Ipsen since he was invited at several occasions as a speaker and was also a jury member of the Endocrinology Prize since the beginning. 

During his career, Paul made fundamental contributions to the field of research on the hormone prolactin.  After making significant advances on the actions of prolactin at Laval University, Paul and his team at McGill University made an internationally acclaimed breakthrough by cloning the prolactin receptor (Cell, 1988).  This result constituted the basis of the work that he continued at the Faculty of Medicine Necker to elucidate the molecular mechanisms of action of prolactin and, using a prolactin receptor-deficient mouse model, the complex pathophysiology of this pleiotropic hormone.

Paul had a strong involvement in editorial activities and served as editor for numerous leading journals in the field of endocrinology. Together with Professor E.E. Baulieu Paul edited the famous textbook “Hormones: From Molecules to Disease” (Hermann, Paris and Chapman-Hall, New York, 1990). He was the Chairman for Basic Research of the 82ndUS Endocrine Society meeting in 2000 and chaired the Gordon Research Conference on Prolactin in 2002. Paul was member of nine distinguished societies. He published over 400 peer-reviewed articles and was a recipient of several prestigious honors and awards, including the Chaire in Molecular Endocrinology of the Fondation de France, the Gerald D. Aurbach Award and the French Ordre national du mérite.

During his exceptional scientific career, Paul remained humble. Accessible, always turned towards others, he was instrumental for the early career of a great number of young scientists who, today, are infinitely grateful. He was also an exceptional teacher.

Henry Friesen says: “Today I recall an earlier period both at McGill and the University of Manitoba when the terra incognito of the domains of prolactin and growth hormone receptors were beginning to be explored. And of course Paul Kelly, Bob Shiu, and Michael Waters were pioneers and trailblazers in the journey of discovery in my lab at that time. But it was Paul Kelly who singlehandedly with his team pursued the scientific quest using ever more sophisticated tools to define the mysteries and mechanisms of the prolactin receptor-ligand hormone interactions and the post receptor signals. It was a monumental achievement made even more heroic as the advances and progress occurred despite the intrusive health challenges he faced over an extended period. Endocrinology has lost a leader and a creative contributor whose life is a shining example of the triumph of the resilience of the human spirit in the face of crippling adversity.

We will remember Paul Kelly as a leading scientist in his field, a mentor, a federator and, maybe above all, a man of incomparable kindness and rare humanism.



This obituary has been written by Pr. Vincent Goffin (Institut Necker Enfants Malades, Université Paris Descartes,).