It is with sorrow and a sense of great loss that we share the news that David Cox, M.D., Ph.D., an inaugural member of DSRTF’s Scientific Advisory Board, died unexpectedly on January 21 at the age of 66.
A world-renowned geneticist, Cox is remembered as “a driving force and a highly valued leader,” by his colleagues at Pfizer, where he served as a senior vice president, heading genetics research at the company’s Rinat facility. We recognize and appreciate the unique viewpoint he brought to the SAB as a representative of the pharmaceutical industry; the practicality and pragmatism he brought to the group gave an essential real-world perspective to DSRTF’s direction.
Cox began his career in medicine, where his innate curiosity found its full expression: “I always just wanted to be a doctor,” he said in 2003, but “I got sucked into research early on in college…When I was in the process of finishing medical school I realized that we didn’t actually understand how anything worked.” It was that urge to discover that shaped Cox into the innovator and pioneer he would become; his contributions were instrumental, say his colleagues, to the success of the Human Genome Project.
We salute Cox’s significant professional accomplishments, which include serving as a professor of genetics and pediatrics at Stanford and co-director of the Stanford Genome Center; participating in several international and national councils and commissions; and being elected to the Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences. We believe his contributions to the field are unsurpassed, and we’re grateful for his diligence in moving research forward.
But beyond the far-reaching effects of his work, we knew him as a supportive, energetic colleague whose presence and enthusiasm for research helped animate the SAB’s proceedings. DSRTF’s Chief Scientific Officer Michael M. Harpold, Ph.D., remembers Cox as “a very bright, insightful, focused colleague and counsel. He was always serious about what was essentially important, but also had a sharp sense of humor — a wonderful person.” Noting that Cox had been involved in DS research in the past but had abandoned it due to a discouraging lack of progress in the field, DSRTF co-founder Patricia O’Brien White described the SAB’s first meeting: “David was excited about the new energy being focused on Down syndrome research,” she said, “excited about the possibilities. He looked around the room, smiled, and said, ‘Hey, I’m back.’”
Cox is survived by his wife and three children, to whom DSRTF extends our sincerest condolences. We will miss him greatly, professionally and personally. We thank David Cox for his service and his friendship, and feel honored to have known him.