In overview, Dr. Robert Zimbelman made pioneering contributions to ASAS/FASS through his research, as an employee of the Upjohn Company, through his ASAS board membership, and as the first Executive VP for Scientific Liaison. He firmly established the Executive VP office and the Congressional Science fellow as national sources of reliable information in support of animal agriculture, and his interactions with influential individuals in academia, government, animal production/industry, and communications media have enhanced the stature of animal agriculture. The Zimbelman Appreciation Club will permanently recognize Bob's enormous legacy to ASAS, our sister scientific societies, and the animal industries.
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Dr. Robert G. Zimbelman initiated his career in animal agriculture on an Ayrshire Dairy in Colorado. He completed his undergraduate degree at Colorado State University and then military service in the U.S. Army Artillery, part of that time in Korea. Bob sought and received excellent advice from colleagues at Colorado State University, especially Dr. H. H. Stonaker, to attend graduate school. Bob traveled to Wisconsin and completed his training through a Ph.D. in Endocrinology and Physiology of Reproduction in the laboratory of Dr. L.E. Casida. Upon completion of his Ph.D., Bob accepted a job at The Upjohn Company. Dr. Casida disagreed with Bob's decision at the time because of the negative stereotype of scientists in "industry" versus academia or the USDA. Over the years Dr. Casida changed his mind that Bob had made a poor decision. This change of mind resulted from Bob's significant contributions to research, to scientific discussions through the Brook Lodge Workshops published in the Journal of Reproduction and Fertility as supplements, to ASAS in various capacities, and to the use of scientifically sound data as the bases for decisions regarding food safety.
At the outset of his professional career at Upjohn in the late 1950s and early 1960s, Dr. Zimbelman headed a team that developed MGA for beef cattle. Bob's objective was to develop a practical and economically feasible product for beef cattle estrus synchronization. To that end, he and a colleague, John Babcock, identified several steroids that might be candidates, among them MGA. In the course of ensuing investigations, Bob's team observed that heifers fed MGA were gaining weight more rapidly and more efficiently than expected. MGA was developed for feedlot heifer growth promotion and estrus inhibition and was approved by the Center for Veterinary Medicine of the FDA in February 1968. MGA remains an important product for use in feedlot heifers and is fed to about 80% of fed heifers in the United States.
During the late 1960s and into the 1970s, Dr. Zimbelman organized people like himself at other animal health companies into an effective group for their common good to approach the FDA to address use of steroids in animal agriculture. A major issue was the FDA's policy of zero tolerance for suspected carcinogens, which included all steroids. In those days the Delaney Amendment was a fiercely defended document due to concern regarding cancer. One of the provisions of the Delaney Amendment was zero presence of any suspect carcinogen or frank carcinogen. Because "zero" is a function of assay sensitivity or Lower Limit of Detection, Bob led the way toward FDA's "threshold assessment" policy for such products. Most of the industry scientists who worked on this project were fierce competitors, unaccustomed to working together. Their experience with Bob during this period helped these companies strengthen the Scientific Committee of the Animal Health Institute, their trade organization that still speaks for them collectively today. A companion activity of Bob's in this area was through the ASAS Regulatory Agencies Committee. Bob was allowed to contribute to this committee through attendance at the committee meetings and through his data, knowledge of the scientific literature, and his interpretations and opinions regarding such data and information. Bob was not allowed to be a committee member due to his "status" as an industry scientist. However, owing to his significant scientific contributions and his colleagues' recognition of his scientific credibility, eventually he was allowed to be recognized as a committee member. This was a major breakthrough for scientists in industry to be more readily accepted as candidates for various ASAS offices and awards.
Dr. Zimbelman headed discovery research within Animal Health at The Upjohn Company. He implemented a visiting scientist program and several scientists took advantage of this opportunity to work both in discovery research and with product development research.
Then, at a time in his career when most of us would be consolidating our positions, Dr. Zimbelman had a vision for ASAS members working together with industry to affect science policy in Washington. Thus, when ASAS created the position of Executive Vice President, Bob possessed sufficient confidence to accept the position. As a result of Bob's pioneering efforts, the Executive Vice President position is solidly entrenched in ASAS, and FASS is institutionalized in our scientific societies. FASS provides greater clout in Washington, efficiency for our scientific societies and annual meetings, and services for our members that none of our societies could provide alone. Perhaps even more importantly, during that same period Bob helped organize CoFARM and strengthen the Animal Agriculture Coalition, effective groups to accomplish goals none of the individual member industries or societies could have accomplished alone.
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Podcast with Pierce Bennett
Public Policy Intern Pierce Bennett talks about his experiences in Washington D.C.
Date: August, 2015
Maci Lienemann Podcast
Public Policy Intern, Maci Lienemann, talks about her experiences in Washington D.C.
Date: August, 2015