How X Got Here
Gary Long '72
by C. L. Stambush
How Gary Got Here
Gary Long ’72 went from working in his father’s hardware store to partner, senior scientist and vice-president of a biotechnology company in Maryland.
I didn’t grow up wanting to be a scientist, but I got some A’s in biology at USI, so I stuck with that. Dr. Melvin Denner motivated me to pursue graduate school for a career in biology after earning a bachelor’s degree in life science. I have him to thank for the career I have today.
I studied trypanosomiasis, a type of parasite that causes African sleeping sickness and Chagas disease, at Indiana State University in Terre Haute, Indiana, earning my Ph.D in 1978 before attending the University of Chicago, where I worked on diagnosis of schistosomiasis, a disease occurring in Asia, as my post-doc. During this period, I did field work in the Philippines and Egypt.
When a job opened up at a Navy research laboratory in the Philippines, I joined the Navy as a lieutenant and worked on malaria drug resistance and pathology of schistosomiasis. It gave my wife, three children and me our first experiences in another culture.
After three years abroad, we returned to the U.S. for me to work at the Naval Medical Research Center in Bethesda, Maryland, on biotechnology and malaria vaccine programs, conducting field work in Thailand and Kenya.
I left the Navy to join Johns Hopkins University’s School of Hygiene and Public Health where I worked on various vaccine trials.
When I learned of the Navy’s need for someone who could develop tests that detected and identified infectious bacteria and viruses, I returned as a civilian to the Navy’s Biological Defense Research Program.
I served as an inspector for the United Nations, investigating bio production facilities in Iraq, looking for the presence of agents, such as anthrax, plague and botulism. We supported the FBI and Secret Service in the Washington D.C. area by analyzing suspicious objects, powders or liquids, in general, but also at several political nominating conventions and the Atlanta Olympics. I became head of the Navy’s Biological Defense Research Program in 1998.
Three of my coworkers and I had developed a host of simple tests for the Navy to detect the presence of chemical threats. We felt there was a private-sector market for similar tests, and broke away to start Tetracore, a biotechnology company that focuses on clinical, veterinary and domestic preparedness testing. It was a risk. I was 49 years old. My wife supported us with her paralegal career for several months, while my partners and I used our personal monies to fund the laboratory’s operation. Today, Tetracore has grown from four founders to 67 employees, among them scientists, engineers and a physician.
Life is long, so invest in the front end of your career—education— because finding the right path in life takes time.