Murphy named Opie First Centennial Professor

Kenneth M. Murphy, MD, PhD, has been named the Eugene L. Opie First Centennial Professor of Pathology and Immunology at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis.

The appointment was announced by Herbert W. Virgin, MD, PhD, the Edward Mallinckrodt Professor of Pathology and Immunology and head of the department. The professorship is named in remembrance of Eugene L. Opie, MD, the first chair of the pathology department and a former dean of the School of Medicine.



Murphy’s career began in 1984 when he came to Washington University for his pathology residency. He now is director of the Immunology Program of the Division of Biology and Biomedical Sciences and a Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator.

“Eugene Opie was a remarkable scientist whose accomplishments included being first to link diabetes to the islets of Langerhans in the pancreas,” Murphy says. “I am grateful to be chosen for a professorship that pays homage to such a highly respected leader and researcher.”

Murphy specializes in the study of immune cells known as T cells and the way they work with other factors to fight infections.

“Ken is one of the preeminent immunologists in the world today and an extremely important part of the Washington University immunology community,” Virgin says. “Through his brilliant and imaginative scientific endeavors, he has improved our understanding of immunology. He richly deserves the honor of being the first centennial professor.”

“In addition to his diverse array of research accomplishments, Dr. Murphy is an accomplished teacher who is widely respected for his comprehensive textbook, Immunobiology,” says Larry J. Shapiro, executive vice chancellor for medical affairs and dean of the School of Medicine.

In recent years, Murphy identified a protein that locks stem cells into becoming heart tissue. With the goal of one day using such cells to repair heart injuries, he is currently working to better understand the mechanisms that determine what types of tissues stem cells become.

Murphy, who was born in Omaha, Neb., earned medical and doctoral degrees at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in 1984. He did postdoctoral work at Washington University and in 1989 was appointed assistant professor of pathology and immunology. He became associate professor in 1994 and professor in 1999.

He is a past recipient of the Juvenile Diabetes Foundation’s Career Development Award and of Washington University School of Medicine’s Distinguished Investigator Award.

Washington University School of Medicine’s 2,100 employed and volunteer faculty physicians also are the medical staff of Barnes-Jewish and St. Louis Children’s hospitals. The School of Medicine is one of the leading medical research, teaching and patient care institutions in the nation, currently ranked fourth in the nation by U.S. News & World Report. Through its affiliations with Barnes-Jewish and St. Louis Children’s hospitals, the School of Medicine is linked to BJC HealthCare.