The groundwork for The Academy of Medicine, Engineering & Science of Texas (TAMEST) was laid in the mid-90s when Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison became a member of the Senate Appropriations committee.

“Before TAMEST’s founding, there had been world-class research being conducted in Texas research centers, but it had been performed virtually in isolation,” Sen. Hutchison said.

“I looked at where the research money was going and saw that it was going mostly to California,” she recalled. “So I began a five-year program to bring the major medical research institutions in Texas together with the heads of different federal agencies and members of their selection committees. We brought in the National Institutes of Health (NIH), National Cancer Institute, the Department of Defense … and let people hear what the priorities were.”

The presentations generated discussion among the leadership of major Texas research institutions about ways they could collaborate to make better proposals for joint and multifaceted projects seeking peer-reviewed grants and earmarks. The first of those meetings was held in Peter O’Donnell’s office and included Malcolm Gillis, PhD, and Neal Lane, PhD, respectively President and Provost of Rice University; Larry Faulkner, President of UT Austin; and Dr. Kern Wildenthal, President of UT Southwestern.

Sen. Hutchison recalled O’Donnell liking the idea from the start.

Peter’s genius is that when he decides that something is worthy he says, ‘Okay, we’re going to put together a plan, define its mission and determine exactly how we’re going to get there. Peter was invaluable in many more ways than funding.

Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison
Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison and Peter O’Donnell Jr.

In 2004, Sen. Hutchison asked Texas Nobel Laureates Drs. Michael Brown of UT Southwestern and Richard Smalley of Rice University to think through the details of what would become TAMEST.

“We wanted to establish a vehicle for our state’s best researchers to collaborate across institutions – to share their discoveries, utilize each other’s resources and get peer-level feedback,” Sen. Hutchison said. “Our world-class research institutions and university-based innovation centers bring new technology and research together with savvy entrepreneurs, creating new businesses and, most importantly, creating jobs.”

O’Donnell and his wife, Edith, provided an endowment that would grow to generate $100,000 annually.

The Edith and Peter O’Donnell Awards are given each year to recognize four rising Texas researchers responsible for cutting-edge research in the areas of medicine, engineering, science and technology innovation.

Southwestern Medical Foundation is a proud supporter of TAMEST, including their Annual Conference.