William Phelps Arend, M.D., aged 82, passed away on January 14, 2020, surrounded by his loving family after a short illness. Dr. Arend began his research career at the University of Washington and is remembered with great fondness by many faculty members of the Division of Rheumatology.
Dr. Arend received his MD from Columbia University College of Physicians & Surgeons in 1964. He was an intern and resident at the University of Washington (1964-68) and was one of the first fellows (1969-71) of Dr. Mart Mannik who had just been recruited to the UW. Drs. Mannik and Arend published a number of papers describing the behavior of soluble immune complexes and their role in causing disease in rheumatoid arthritis and systemic lupus erythematosus. Dr. Arend became Chief of Arthritis at the Seattle VA Hospital in 1971, replacing Dr. Bruce Gilliland who moved to the UWMC.
Dr. Gordon Starkebaum, who became Bill’s first fellow in 1975, recalls the following: “I spent 4 years with Dr. Arend at the VA, 1975-1979. We published 7 papers together. Bill was interested in human monocytes which were hard to purify and work with. So, I chose to work with neutrophils which for me were much easier to purify…. In 1983, Bill moved to Denver as Head, Division of Rheumatology, and Professor of Medicine at the University of Colorado. He continued his work with human monocytes. He noted that there was no release of IL-1 by human monocytes exposed to immune complexes unless complement was added. The immune complexes were carefully prepared and were free of endotoxin. On the other hand, monocytes cultured on adherent immune complexes released a factor that inhibited IL-1 stimulation of cultured rabbit chondrocytes or murine thymocytes. The factor had a MW of 22000 and Bill postulated that it was an IL-1 inhibitor. (J Immunology 134: 3868-75, 1985). This initial discovery led in 1990 to the purification and the cloning of an IL-1 receptor antagonist, which we now know as the biologic agent anakinra (Nature 343: 336-340, 1990; Nature 343:341-46, 1990)”.
Dr. Arend lived a life of professional teaching, dedication to research, and care to patients and those afflicted with arthritis and other inflammatory diseases. Dr Arend's research over his 17 years at the University of Colorado School of Medicine followed a logical and consistent progression oriented around the broad objective of investigating the roles of inflammatory cells, particularly monocytes and macrophages. He clearly was the intellectual driving force behind many important research contributions. During his tenure he became internationally recognized as a pioneer investigator of the underlying biologic mechanisms of rheumatoid arthritis. He retired from the University of Colorado as Professor Emeritus in 2013.
Dr. Arend also spent a large portion of his career traveling and working with other health professionals through the American College of Rheumatology and other professional organizations serving as a keynote speaker or panelist about his research. He was the principal investigator of multiple grants and the author of numerous scientific papers and textbook chapters to further the advancement of basic medical research, treatment of diseases, and provide better training and teaching for upcoming physicians and medical researchers.
He was Editor of the Arthritis & Rheumatism (1995-2000) and received numerous national and international awards in recognition of his research achievements including, a Guggenheim Foundation Fellowship, Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, recipient of the Novartis-ILAR Rheumatology Prize, recipient of the Howley Prize for Research from the Arthritis Foundation, a Pinnacles in Inventorship Lifetime Achievement Award from CU Innovations, Distinguished professor from the University of Colorado, the Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons’ Alumni Association Gold Medal for Outstanding Achievement in Medical Research, and the American College of Rheumatology Gold Medal Award, the highest award in this professional society, among others.
In 2018, funded by Anakinra royalties from Dr. Arend and the Department of Medicine, the William P. Arend Endowed Chair in Rheumatology was established to provide for ongoing research in rheumatology and inflammatory diseases at the University of Colorado.