Reflections on Vladimir “Vlado” Macko (1930 – 2022)
We at BTI were sad to hear of the passing of Dr. Vladimir “Vlado” Macko, a plant biochemist who spent nearly 30 years conducting research at BTI.
After joining BTI to work on rust fungi in December 1969, Macko and his colleagues discovered the chemical nature of host specific toxins including victorin, HS toxin and peritoxin. The work led to the discovery of protectants and latent toxins, and to the finding of victorin binding protein and its location in mitochondria and guard cells. He also characterized the chemical nature of self-inhibitors of spore germination in plant pathogenic fungi. Macko received the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation’s Senior U.S. Scientist Award. He retired from BTI in 1996 and remained an emeritus scientist through 1999.
Since his passing, some of Vlado’s former colleagues have shared reflections, which we are pleased to share with you below. If you would also like to share your reflections on Vlado, please email them to email@example.com.
Alan Renwick, BTI Emeritus Professor
I was deeply saddened to hear of Vlado’s passing.
My association with Vlado began in the late 1960s when I spent time working in the Staples lab. Vlado’s research on the germination self-inhibitors of rust fungi required frequent use of the analytical services that were my responsibility, and he soon welcomed my involvement in the identification of active compounds. Vlado’s generosity resulted in my co-authorship of several publications, including two in Science. As a result, I feel that Vlado played a significant role in the development of my career in chemical ecology.
After the move from Yonkers to Ithaca in 1978, Vlado continued to invite me to join him as he expanded his research program to a new level. As a result, a close friendship developed that continued until the time of his retirement and move to Florida. I kept in contact over time and was happy to visit him in West Palm Beach a few years ago.
I remember Vlado as a valuable friend and highly successful scientist, who inspired others in his very quiet way.
He will be sorely missed.
Thomas Wolpert, Emeritus Professor, Oregon State University
I conducted my postdoctoral research in Vlado’s laboratory, arriving near the beginning of his “victorin” phase. I must say that due to this research and Vlado’s generous nature, the experience formed much of my future career. I very much appreciate and owe this to him.
He was a fantastic natural products chemist with an undaunting tenacity. He typically took on problems with which others had struggled or given up, and he succeeded in solving them. It’s not that he was fearless; he knew that a lack of success would curtail future grant funding. Nor was he arrogant; he sought and very much appreciated help whenever and wherever it was needed. It was because he loved a challenge! It also didn’t hurt that he was exceptionally hard working, relentless and clever.
He was a master of throughput and scale. He would do whatever was needed to get the job done. For example, I recall stories that at the Yonkers facility, he built a two-story chromatography column (a glass tube filled with a matrix for the separation of various biomolecules)! I never saw it, so cannot be sure, but I know that at the Ithaca facility he created several ~10 ft devices of the same nature and I am pretty sure these were limited in length only because we had concrete floors and ceilings! He was always creative. To this day, I marvel at his wonderfully clever, yet simple, thin-layer chromatography assay for uredeospore self-inhibitors.
I learned so much from my time in his laboratory.
He was also a good friend and mentor. He expanded my cultural background and provided me multiple opportunities to explore Europe, oftentimes sharing his own perspectives and experiences. He encouraged me and those in his laboratory to work hard but emphasized how important it was to care for one’s health and well-being. He made a difference, in the world of science and to me. I will miss him.