John “Pete” Lollar
LSU BS ’73, Saint Louis University MD ‘77
Professor, Department of Pediatrics
Hemophilia of Georgia, Inc., Research Chair in Hemostasis
Aflac Cancer & Blood Disorders Center
Emory School of Medicine, Atlanta, GA
Pete grew up in Springfield, Missouri. His father, Sherman Lollar, was a major league baseball player. Following retirement, he coached at the major league level and managed at the minor league level. His father and mother, Constance Lollar, owned and operated a bowling alley in Springfield. Mr. Lollar passed away in 1977. Mrs. Lollar continued to manage the bowling alley until the 1990s and passed away in 2015 at the age of 93. Mr. and Mrs. Lollar were always supportive of Pete’s educational endeavors. He started to get interested in science as a high school student, thanks to some excellent teachers in mathematics and physics. He attended Southwest Missouri State University (now Missouri State) on a basketball scholarship. He transferred to LSU in his sophomore year and redshirted on the basketball team. One of the reasons for transferring to LSU was the program in Biochemistry.
A prerequisite in the biochemistry curriculum was organic chemistry and Pete took the traditional two-semester course for chemistry majors. The class was small and taught by Ken Houk. As a transfer student, Pete lacked confidence and greatly appreciated the encouragement he received from Dr. Houk, whom he describes as an excellent lecturer. Combined with the classic textbook of Morrison and Boyd, he began to gain a foundation and appreciation for organic chemistry. He took the second semester class with Bill Daly. Looking back, Pete appreciates these research-active professors who were also dedicated teachers. He was so enthralled that he switched his major to Chemistry. He also particularly enjoyed classes with Dewey Carpenter (physical chemistry), L. K. Runnels (applied mathematics for chemists) and John Marshall (electricity and magnetism in the Department of Physics). He received an academic scholarship during his sophomore year and quit playing basketball to focus on his studies. Says Pete, “I enjoyed the classical method of a professor coming in five days a week, standing at the chalkboard and giving a one-hour lecture. I also enjoyed interacting with the chemistry and physics students at LSU.”
Following graduation with a BS in Chemistry, in 1973, Pete went to medical school at Saint Louis University. He received his initial exposure to biomedical research there by doing research electives at the Institute for Molecular Virology. After graduating from medical school 1977, he did a residency in internal medicine and a fellowship in hematology at the University of Iowa from 1977 to 1982. During his time as a resident, the Division of Hematology-Oncology instituted a program whereby residents did two years of laboratory research. The experience consolidated Pete’s conviction to become a physician scientist. He acknowledges that his chemistry classes were an excellent background for laboratory research. He received additional fellowship training in hematology at the Mayo Clinic from 1982 to 1984 and accepted a faculty position in the Department of Internal Medicine at the University of Vermont in 1984. In 1990, he moved to the Emory University, initially in the Department of Internal Medicine and then in the Department of Pediatrics.
Looking back, Pete says he would have spent more time in training, broadening and strengthening his experience prior to accepting an independent faculty position. For more than 30 years he has directed a research team that has been funded by the National Institutes of Health. The research program is concerned with the biochemistry of proteins involved in hemostasis and the immune response to therapeutic coagulation proteins. His research team led the drug discovery process and preclinical development of Obizur, a recombinant coagulation factor VIII molecule that is used in the treatment of patients with hemophilia.
When asked what classes he enjoyed most back at LSU, he responded that first semester physical chemistry was the most interesting class, noting that “it is a famously difficult subject for some students and I was no exception.” In retrospect, Pete says, “an understanding of thermodynamics is helpful in some of the work I do. I’ve returned to the subject many times over the years and continue to be fascinated by the conceptual difficulties it poses.” Pete concedes that his advice to current students may not be fashionable, but recommends students “spend more time studying and less time in the laboratory … being well versed in the fundamentals of chemistry and physics is important.” He also would advise students to get a strong foundation in mathematics, although there a lot of good scientists for which that is not the case. It has been his observation that most graduate students entering biomedical programs do not have a solid background in mathematics. His education at LSU in the early 1970s prepared him well for his success in medicine and research.
Profile contributed by Carol M. Taylor