George Kabalka, pioneer in the use of organoborane chemistry in the area of radiopharmaceuticals containing short-lived nuclides, was born in Wyandotte, Michigan, February 1, 1943. He earned his undergraduate degree from the University of Michigan in 1965 and his Ph.D. from Purdue University in 1970. Kabalka joined the Department of Chemistry at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, in 1970. Presently he is a Distinguished Service Professor of Chemistry, and in 1994 he became the first endowed professor of the Robert H. Cole Chair in Neuroscience. He is director of research in radiology at the UT Graduate School of Medicine. Kabalka is also a consultant with the Oak Ridge National Laboratory in the Chemistry Division, the Medical and Health Sciences Division, and the Nuclear Medicine Group, Health and Safety Research Division. In 1993 he won the American Chemical Society award for the South's most distinguished chemist.
Kabalka's pioneering research on boron has resulted in the development of procedures for detecting cancer and reducing patient exposure to radiation, and his work holds promise for tumor-specific cancer treatment. A method developed by Kabalka, boron neutron capture therapy (BNCT), has shown some promising results in the treatment of brain cancers in clinical trials at Brookhaven National Laboratories in New York. In addition to the medical uses of boron, Kabalka teamed with Dr. Charles Anderson of the UT chemistry department and Dr. Peter Gresshoff, who holds the UT Chair of Excellence in plant molecular genetics, to develop a method for using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to produce images of microscopic soybean roots.
The use of MRI allows scientists to view soybean metabolism without having to cut and kill the plant. It offers the opportunity to learn more about nitrogen fixation and breed healthier, hardier plants, according to Gresshoff.