Dr. James Lloyd Vaughn

(1957 – 2021)

James Lloyd Vaughn, Ph.D.

James Lloyd Vaughn passed away on March 3, 2021, at Saint Francis Hospital in Tulsa, OK, at the age of 87. He grew up on a dairy farm in Marshfield, Wisconsin, with his mother and father and one sibling. After completing his BA (1957) and MA (1959), he received his PhD in Microbiology/Bacteriology at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, under Dr. Stan Beck. His doctoral work involved the study of bacterial diseases of bees. Dr. Vaughn then moved to Sault St. Marie, Ontario, and worked with the Canadian Department of Forestry as a Research Officer at the Insect Pathology Research Institute from 1961-1965. In 1965, he joined the Agricultural Research Service, U.S. Department of Agriculture, as a Research Microbiologist at the Insect Pathology Research Laboratory in Beltsville, Maryland (IPLB). In 1979, he became the Research Leader of the laboratory, which after re-organization, became known as the Insect Biocontrol Laboratory. In this capacity, Jim was always known as the moderating force in difficult situations, which made him such a successful leader. In 1995, Jim served a six-month temporary appointment at the Environmental Protection Agency. Upon completion of this assignment, Dr. Vaughn stepped down as Research Leader and assumed the part time role of ARS liaison to EPA to assist ARS scientists in obtaining Experimental Use Permits and pesticide registrations, as well as continued in his experimental work at the bench. Jim remained with USDA-ARS for 34 years, retiring in 1999. 

Dr. Vaughn’s research interests were primarily in the culturing of insect cells for use in the study and production of insect viruses, and the application of viruses to insect pest management purposes. In Canada, he focused on the development of primary cell cultures from silkworms for the study of viruses. After joining the USDA, Jim was charged with the development of an insect virus research program. Dr. Vaughn drew upon the work being performed at that time in vertebrate in vitro systems to generate analogous systems in invertebrates. He selected an agricultural pest, the fall armyworm, as his target insect and through his persistent efforts developed the insect cell line, IPBL-Sf-21. In a related breakthrough, Jim and his coworkers were among the first to successfully grow insect cells in suspension culture, allowing for the scaling-up of these cultures. With this technology in hand, Jim was invited to be the expert consultant in setting up the National Insect Biocontrol Lab virus production system (in Stoneville, MS) using fermenters, allowing for the mass production of agriculturally important viral insecticides. Jim was also actively involved in the development of cell line-based systems for the study and production of a variety of insect viruses. Furthermore, once recombinant protein technology was developed, Dr. Vaughn’s Sf-21 cell line combined with suspension culture advances proved to be amenable for the mass production of proteins important in both biomedical and agricultural applications, including vaccines and other high value medical products. Of related importance, the Sf-21 cell line was used as a parental line to generate the clonal isolate, Sf9, also widely used in similar applications. These cell lines have been important components of research efforts described in thousands of patents and peer-reviewed publications, demonstrating their value to researchers worldwide. Jim’s research team also demonstrated that insect cells could be grown in medium free of insect hemolymph (or other invertebrate derived growth supplements) and they contributed to the understanding of the in vitro nutritional requirements of insect cells. Dr. Vaughn authored or co-authored over 94 scientific articles and was in high demand as a speaker and panelist throughout his career because of his pioneering work involving insect cell lines and viruses, which included presentations at a variety of international institutes (such as Hokkaido University, Japan, and the Rural Development Administration, South Korea).

Dr. Vaughn accepts the SIVB Lifetime Achievement Award in June 2000 in San Diego, California

Dr. Vaughn became a member of Society of In Vitro Biology in 1970 and an emeritus member in 2007. He received the distinguished Lifetime Achievement Award from the SIVB at the 2000 World Congress in San Diego, California, in recognition of his exemplary research and pioneering contributions to the field of cell culture, as well as his invaluable contributions to furthering the educational format of the SIVB.  During his career, Jim was also an active member of the American Society of Microbiology, the Society for Invertebrate Pathology, and the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

After his retirement from the USDA, Jim and his wife moved to Tulsa where he served as a docent at the Tulsa Aquarium, attended the University of Tulsa football and basketball games, local theater events, and enjoyed the Tall Grass Prairie. Jim continued to be a dedicated Cheesehead Packer’s fan even into his retirement years.  He was a wise, gracious, steadfast man who loved his family and friends, loved traveling, camping, fishing, history, science, nature and jazz music. He is survived by his wife, Carol; four children – daughters, Susan Conety and husband, James, Katherine Frasier and husband, David; sons, Mike Vaughn and wife, Pam, David Vaughn and wife, Cindy; two stepsons, Jeff Tillman and wife, Jill, Fred Tillman and wife, Jo; one sister, Judith; thirteen grandchildren and five great-grandchildren.

Submitted by:
Cynthia Goodman in collaboration with Carol Vaughn, David Vaughn, Dwight Lynn and Kevin Hackett

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