Early Theraclone Scientist Lee Adams Dies in Mount Rainier Climbing Accident

Xconomy Seattle — 

Some more sad news has hit the Seattle biotech community. Lee Adams, one of the early employees at Spaltudaq, now Theraclone Sciences, died this week on Mount Rainier after a fall into a crevasse. He was 52.

The Seattle Times has a solid story on what happened on the mountain at 13,000 feet of elevation. The story notes that Adams was not just an avid climber, but a research scientist at the Institute for Systems Biology and Theraclone Sciences before that. In a statement, ISB officials said that Adams brought “genuine enthusiasm” to his work each day. I heard a similar comment from Accelerator president David Schubert.

“He was truly one of the nicest people you would ever hope to meet in this world and he ALWAYS wore a smile and was infectiously positive in his demeanor. He was part of the Accelerator family. He will be deeply missed,” Schubert says.

I can’t say I knew Adams, because I only met him once. But I have to say he made the same impression on me personally. Adams was one of the earliest supporters of Xconomy Seattle. As you can see in the picture from our archives, Adams (on the right) attended our very first local event, a forum on vaccine innovation that was held at the Institute for Systems Biology in December 2008. The economy was in the tank, and almost everyone other than my wife thought I had lost my mind in joining an online media startup. I wasn’t really sure how many people were reading our site, or how many people would show up at our event.

But I remember Adams pulling me aside at this event, which you can see in the picture. He told me how much he appreciated our daily coverage of local biotechnology, how valuable it was for people like him in the local biotech industry to be able to read about what others in town were doing. He might have even asked me for some scuttlebutt about another company I had recently reported on. But basically, he urged me to keep doing what I do. There was no question it was a sincere comment, and he wasn’t asking for anything from me in return. I could tell this was someone who had a real genuine life spark inside him. I’m sad to see him go.

This is the second tragedy that has hit the Theraclone Sciences team this summer, following the sudden death of CEO David Fanning in June. If you have any memories of Adams, or Fanning, that you’d like to share with readers of Xconomy, please feel free to add your thoughts in the comment section below.

Lee Adams (center right) was an enthusiastic scientist and outdoorsman

Lee Adams (center right) was an enthusiastic scientist and outdoorsman

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5 responses to “Early Theraclone Scientist Lee Adams Dies in Mount Rainier Climbing Accident”

  1. I just got the following comment by e-mail from Johnny Stine, the founder of Spaltudaq (now Theraclone Sciences.)

    “I’m just floored by this,” Stine says. “He was one of the big hires,” after Spaltudaq closed its second round of financing.

  2. Ray Fox says:

    I worked with Lee pretty closely at ICOS and then again at Spaltudaq/Theraclone. I also rode with him on a couple of local Century bike rides………if what I did could be described as riding WITH him. More like struggling to stay up with him until I gave up. We both bike commuted to ICOS and he would drop down out of warp to say “hi” when he ran across me on the B-G and then just launch himself again. The man had a boundless energy. Yesterday the staff here at Theraclone hoisted a few to his memory at a pub on Capitol Hill. As his brother Ellis has said, “He died doing what he loved”.

  3. Eric Austin says:

    I was also lucky enough to work with Lee at ICOS. He was just about one of the most energetic and enthusiastic people I’ve ever met. Always a positive attitude and a great work ethic. I never had the chance to go riding with him like Ray did (though we talked about doing so on several occasions), but I did enjoy working with him and he will be missed.

  4. Jennifer Mitcham says:

    Lee and I worked closely together on many grants and projects and I can only echo what others have said. He was a uniformly pleasant and hard-working person. Even when we were working under very stressful deadlines he helped the team stay positive. By all accounts he was a great neighbor and gave back to the climbing community he loved. I remember his matter of fact attitude toward a leg injury he suffered when a boulder narrowly missed him a couple years back, “Yeah, if I hadn’t been able to twist away in mid-air…” all delivered with his signature warmth and sincerity. I admired his passion for life and will miss him.

  5. I just got some updated information on a memorial service for Lee Adams, which is open to the community. Here are the details from Jennifer Swank.

    When: Thurs, Aug 5, 4 p.m. – 6 p.m.

    Where: Institute for Systems Biology | 1441 N 34th St, Seattle, WA 98103
    ISB’s main bldg at 1441 North 34th St, 2nd floor lunchroom & balconies

    Who: ISB employees and the larger scientific community.

    RSVP : Please RSVP to [email protected]. Please let Jennifer know if you would like to say a few words about Lee at the event.

    Donation: Lee’s family has requested that in lieu of flowers, donations be made to the Nature Conservancy of WA.

    For your reference…

    Seattle Times Obituary: http://www.legacy.com/obituaries/seattletimes/obituary.aspx?n=lee-f-adams&pid=144377855

    Portland, Maine Obituary: http://www.pressherald.com/news/mount-rainier-climber-service-set-for-aug_-14_2010-07-30.html?searchterm=%26quot%3Blee+adams%26quot%3B