Dr. Philip C. Trexler

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Dr. Philip C. Trexler July 30, 1911 - June 29, 2014 SOUTH BEND - Dr. Philip C. Trexler was born to Lester and Louise Trexler in "Pair-a-dice," CA, on July 30th, 1911, which was later re-spelled "Paradise" for political correctness after the "gold rush days." Some would consider this to be an omen, as Dr. Trexler had a great sense of humor and was totally unconcerned about political correctness. He was a scientist through and through, and pursued facts with an ever-present gentile disposition with no interest in pomp and circumstance or anything pretentious. He would always downplay the many accolades given to him with his usual humility. Dr. Trexler passed away on June 29th, 2014, just 31 days shy of his 103rd birthday, at The Sanctuary at Holy Cross near the University of Notre Dame (UND) in South Bend, IN, where he had accomplished so much and was awarded a B.S. degree in 1934, a Master's Degree in 1936, and in 1984, an Honorary Doctorate Degree by its distinguished President, the Rev. Theodore Hesburgh. Although "Trex," as he liked to be called, which was his father's nickname as well, entered the Catholic seminary as a young man in high school; within a year he recognized that the life of the clergy was not for him. After finishing high school, he entered Notre Dame and graduated Cum Laude with a B.S. degree in Biology. Trex stayed on at UND and received his Master's degree (Magna Cum Laude) under James Arthur "Art" Reyniers. Fr. John O'Hara, later Cardinal O'Hara, was President of the University and considered Reyniers as his prot‚g‚. Fr. O'Hara advised Reyniers that if he would concentrate on his germfree research, he would be able to start an Institute. This was the beginning of the LOBUND (Laboratories of Bacteriology, University of Notre Dame) Institute and its quest to develop germfree animals for biomedical research, which are the ultimate controlled animal model for any scientific study. Trex stayed at UND as Associate Director of LOBUND and built the steel isolators for rearing germfree animals and oversaw the research, while Reyniers went on the road to solicit funding for LOBUND. Since Fr. O'Hara's father had been the U.S. Ambassador to Argentina, Fr. O'Hara was able to introduce Reyniers to the Washington, D.C., social crowd including members of Congress who were interested in science and prominent personalities such as Bob Hope and other entertainers who did charity work. Reyniers was able to obtain over three million dollars of support during the 1940s when the entire budget for all of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in 1940 was only $700,000! Consequently, Reyniers and Trex were able to build a new building for LOBUND and developed the first germfree rat in 1946. This was a major breakthrough and resulted in their picture appearing in LIFE Magazine in 1949. Trex is on the far left, with Reyniers in the middle and the LOBUND business manager, Bob Ervin, on the right. Since the cost of a "Reyniers" type of stainless steel isolator, which cost as much as an automobile at the time, was preventing the implementation of germfree research, Trex introduced an extremely inexpensive flexible film isolator made of polyvinyl plastic in 1957 which revolutionized the field and allowed for many more research institutes in academia, industry and government to establish gnotobiotic laboratories. In addition, at the behest of the Institute for Laboratory Animal Research within the National Academy of Sciences, Dr. Trexler held a 3-day Workshop in 1960 on the campus of UND to teach 10 commercial and one governmental animal supplier how to derive their nucleus stock animals into the germfree state, thereby freeing them from ectoparasites (fleas, ticks, lice and mites), endoparasites (pinworms, tapeworms, etc.), pathogenic bacteria (Salmonella, Mycoplasma, etc.), and a myriad of mouse and rat viruses (over 20 in all!). This Workshop literally transformed the landscape of biomedical research overnight. By eliminating all of these infestations and infections of research animals, investigators were able to conduct their research without the interference these pathogens had been causing for decades, requiring many experiments to be repeated and some studies to be abandoned altogether. For these enormous contributions to biomedical research, Trex received an Honorary Doctorate Degree from UND, an Honorary Membership into the American College of Laboratory Animal Medicine, and the Griffin Award, which is the highest award bestowed by the American Association for Laboratory Animal Science! He had 18 US patents, 9 UK patents, and 76 publications. Dr. Trexler was predeceased by a brother, Ralph J. Trexler Sr. of Texa and two sisters, Joan Klechner and Louise Haire, both of Florida. Dr. Trexler had no children but married Ruby Collister, M.D in 1972, and thereby acquired four stepchildren, Ingrid Calder (Rick) Graham, John David Collister, Graham Mark (Debbie) Collister and Ian Johnathan (Jennifer) Collister, all of whom survive him, along with 8 grandchildren. Dr. Trexler requested no funeral service, but his ashes will be interred at the University of Notre Dame. Arrangements have been placed under the care and direction of Billings Funeral Home of Elkhart. Prior to his death, Dr. Trexler requested any memorial gifts be donated to the science of one's choice. One good choice might be the Association for Gnotobiotics (AG), the very scientific organization founded by Dr. Trexler in 1961. Tax deductible donations in Dr. Trexler's memory can be made out to the Association for Gnotobiotics and sent to Dr. Philip B. Carter, Secretary/Treasurer, Association for Gnotobiotics, 12916 Barsanlaw Dr., Raleigh, NC 27613-6400.

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Published in South Bend Tribune on July 20, 2014
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