Dr. Timothy John O’Brien, 81, a professor, researcher, director, businessman, husband, father and friend, was born on August 15, 1940 in Kinsale, County Cork, Ireland. He died in Little Rock on August 19, 2021. His wife, Barbara Marie O’Brien, passed away and his widow is 49 years old. His children, Katie S. O’Brien, Bridget B. O’Brien, and T. McDara O’Brien, and seven grandchildren. He is a member of the Irish Cultural Association and a devout Catholic.
UAMS professor and researcher Dr. O’Brien discovered the gene CA125 which can identify the presence of ovarian cancer. His patent was used to make the most widely used diagnostic kit for ovarian cancer. He has saved countless lives. May he Rest In Peace.
Dr. O’Brien graduated from Presentation High School in 1958, received a BA from Dublin University in 1961, an MA in Biology from the University of Toronto in 1964, and a Ph.D. in 1964. In 1967, he received a Ph.D. in biochemistry from the University of Illinois. He received scholarships for further study at Purdue University (1967-1969) and the University of Southern California (1969-1970).
Dr. O’Brien began researching female cancer in the 1960s and began focusing on ovarian cancer at the University of Southern California in the 1970s. In 1984, O’Brien joined UAMS and In 1997 he founded UAMS Arkansas Bio Ventures, a biotech business accelerator that turned UAMS research into employment opportunities in Arkansas.
One of O’Brien’s most notable achievements is his discovery of a gene called CA125 that can recognize the presence of ovarian cancer cells. His work was patented, it was the first UAMS patent, and he was licensed to a biotech company in Pennsylvania. The company sold the CA125 diagnostic kit, which is now the most widely used ovarian cancer screening method in the world. In 2004, she received the Abbott Award for her lifetime contribution to the diagnosis and treatment of ovarian cancer.
During his career, he was a member of the Rice Science Advisory Board (2009), president of the Arkansas Biotechnology Association (1993), CEO and founder of Arkansas Bio Ventures (1997), and Associate Editor for Oncology Biology (1998). He is also a board member of Safe Foods, Inc. (2000), a board member of the International Society for Developmental Biology and Medical Code (ISOBM) (2003), a member of the advisory board of CanAg Diagnostics, AB, Gothenburg , Sweden (2003), Founder of Stage I and CEO of Diagnostics (2004), Member of the Board of Directors of the American Chamber of Commerce in Sweden (2005), Leader of the Biotechnology Infrastructure Task Force in Little Rock City (2005) , Member of the Steering Committee of Accelerate Arkansas (2006) and Member of the Board of Directors of DCV Technologies.