A brief history of the TCRB

The idea for developing a cooperative effort among reproductive biologists in the Research Triangle emerged during discussions between John Vandenbergh and Clem Markert. In 1989, they met to discuss preparation of a proposal to the National Science Foundation to establish a “Science and Technology Research Center for Reproductive Biology.” There was considerable enthusiasm among the researchers in the Triangle, many of whom are still active members of the TCRB, for such a Center. To prepare the proposal to create a Triangle Science and Technology Center for Reproductive Biology, a meeting was held in December, 1989, at the Sheraton Imperial Hotel to discuss each institution’s commitment to reproductive biology and to the establishment of a cooperative consortium. Presentations from each institution were made by Drs. Frank French (UNC-CH), Claude Hughes (Duke), Jack Britt (NCSU), John McLachlan (NIEHS), and Ralph Cooper (EPA). The NC Biotechnology Center provided $2,371 start-up funds necessary for the conference to proceed. This was important money to get us started, and the NC Biotechnology Center continued to provide support in subsequent years.

Although the Triangle Center for Reproductive Biology was not funded, NSF felt we were a “productive, intellectually rich group of investigators” and the organizers felt the idea of a regional consortium had sufficient merit to proceed even without major funding.

In 1990, members from NCSU, UNC, Duke, NIEHS, and EPA met and decided to create the Triangle Consortium for Reproductive Biology. The purpose of the Consortium was to hold an annual conference at which researchers and students could present papers and discuss common research interests.

The first conference was held on January 12, 1991 at the Radisson Governor’s Inn in the Research Triangle Park. The theme of the conference was “Frontiers of Biotechnology: Molecular Approaches to Reproductive Biology.” Neal First was our keynote speaker and presented a paper on “New reproductive biotechnology advances.” In addition to five other speakers representing local institutions, 45 posters were presented by participants. The steering committee for this conference included Claude Hughes, Ralph Cooper, John McLachlan, Frank French, Debbie O’Brien, David Schomberg and John Vandenbergh. A semblance of organization has developed to maintain the continuity of the TCRB. A planning group meets each year in the summer or early fall to plan the next meeting. A chairperson is selected from the group to serve for a 3-year period, and to organize the annual meeting. John Vandenbergh served as chair for the first several years until Claude Hughes from Duke University picked it up. Frank French and Debbie O’Brien from UNC-CH then organized the meeting for 3 years. Chairmanship was returned to NCSU with Bill Miller and John Vandenbergh serving as the co-organizers. William Wetsel at Duke organized the meeting for 3 years. The responsibility then returned to UNC-CH, with Frank French and Michael O’Rand serving for three years. The chairmanship shifted back to NCSU where John Godwin, Char Farin and Bill Miller served as co-organizers. Recent chairs of the meeting have included Carmen Williams (NIEHS), Chris Geyer (ECU), Susan Murphy (Duke), and Churchill Wang (NCSU).

Although the TCRB has been in existence since 1991, it had an informal predecessor in the “Triangle Reproduction Colloquium.” Jerry Hulka at Chapel Hill, Dave Schomberg at Duke, and Don Smith at NCSU were able to put together monthly dinners with invited speakers of national stature that attracted many of the active reproductive biologists in the Research Triangle area. Initially, the Ford Foundation and additional industry sponsors provided funds for this event, making it possible to invite predoctoral students and postdoctoral fellows for a free meal. Many of these dinners were held at the North Carolina State University Faculty Club. The value of such an event to bring people with common research interests together became apparent, and from these “Triangle Reproduction Colloquiums,” we have now become a thriving organization with nearly 200 members representing institutions from throughout North Carolina, South Carolina, and Virginia.