Thomas Patrick Hopp
West Seattle High School
Class of 1968
Thomas Patrick Hopp climbed a long way up from his origins in a housing project, to the halls of some of our nation’s greatest medical research institutions, and on into the world of novel writing.
Tom spent his early childhood years in a housing project on the banks of the Duwamish River in South Park, in an area that is now a superfund toxic waste cleanup site. Tom describes the project as, “not a very nice place to be a kid.” His parents moved to the neighborhood at the top of Jacobsen Road, and he attended Genesee Hill Elementary School, James Madison Junior High School, and West Seattle High School. “Every step of the way,” he says, “my teachers were a wonderful positive influence on a kid who carried a bit of street toughness from his housing project days. I was rebellious, but I’ve always been grateful for every teacher who helped me rise above my origins and realize my full potential.”
Hopp paid attention when those teachers “sighed in exasperation” when he didn’t turn in homework, or looked regretful when he failed to complete class assignments. “I got it, that they really cared about me,” he says. “I responded by learning to care about myself and study harder. I did well enough to get pretty good grades at West Seattle High School—far from straight A’s though.”
His interest in science caught fire at the University of Washington, and a perfect score on the Graduate Record Exam got him into Cornell University Medical College where he got a Ph.D. in biochemistry in 1977. He studied genetic engineering at Rockefeller University and went on to help found Seattle’s multi-billion-dollar biotechnology company, Immunex Corporation, now Amgen. While there, he isolated genes for the immune system hormone, interleukin one, and helped Immunex create the blockbuster arthritis drug, Enbrel. Rising to the rank of Vice President, he also developed the world’s first commercially successful nanotechnology device, a molecular handle called the FLAG epitope, which is used by scientists around the world to study most major diseases of mankind. He holds ten biotechnology patents, and has scores of published scientific articles to his credit.
In his days at West Seattle High, Tom was a hippie. He played bass guitar and sang in the psychedelic band, The Crystal Sect. Since then, he’s performed onstage with blues legend John Lee Hooker and rock supergroups The Kingsmen and The Drifters. His current band is The Beaters. Tom excavated dinosaur bones with world-renowned paleontologist, Jack Horner, and originated the theory that feathers arose on bird ancestors, not for flight, but for brooding. In 2000 he published the science fiction novel Dinosaur Wars: Earthfall. Since then he’s published several mysteries and medical thrillers, the most recent being The Neah Virus.
He has lived in San Diego and on Manhattan Island, and he’s been invited to lecture around the world on his biotechnology discoveries. Now he lives in the Seattle area and is glad to be back.