Women of Discovery: Ann Kiessling

Our second profile in our Discovery West “Women of Discovery” series is Dr. Ann Kiessling, a native Oregonian. Dr. Kiessling is a reproductive biologist who made important contributions to research on viruses, among other things. In fact, she was one of the first AIDS researchers and remains one of the leading reproductive biologists in the country. She is known for her discovery of “reverse transcriptase” in normal human cells. As our neighborhood begins to take shape, you will see that our streets are each named after a woman who has made an impact, like Dr. Kiessling.

We spoke with her via email about our plans and she had this to say: “I know well that Bend is one of the most beautiful spots in the country, so I am certain your subdivision is also lovely…I look forward to learning what other ‘discoverers’ will be included in the new map of Discovery West Bend.”

Born in Baker City and attending high school in Klamath Falls, Dr. Kiessling’s Oregon roots are deep. She is an Oregon State University Beaver (Go Beavs!), holding a doctorate in biochemistry and biophysics. Her research and work surrounding virology and reproductive biology led to the founding of the first in vitro fertilization clinic in Oregon. After this she was recruited by Harvard Medical School, where she pursues work in stem cell and biomedical research.

In addition to her vast contributions to the field, she is the recipient of multiple awards regional, national and international awards. Dr. Kiessling has published more than 100 scientific papers and given more than 60 lectures globally. She is also the founder of the Special Program of Assisted Reproduction (SPAR), which helps those affected by HIV disease have safe, healthy babies. SPAR is part of the Bedford Research Foundation, which she also founded and where she currently conducts research.

Her work takes on particular significance in today’s situation, with many bright minds like hers hard at work fighting the novel coronavirus outbreak. In fact, reverse transcriptase is one of the “tools” being used in testing procedures. In addition, she spearheaded the conversion of the lab at the Bedford Research Foundation to test for the novel coronavirus. We made a donation to the Foundation to help support this important project, and thank Dr. Kiessling for generously allowing us to use her name in the neighborhood.

In a blog post on the Foundation’s site, Dr. Kiessling is quoted as saying “We had the resources to help, and we felt it was our responsibility to pitch in. We have to be prepared for the number of people who display symptoms or have been in contact with those testing positive for the virus to increase. As a matter of public health, we need to know where the virus has spread, and we’re happy to do our part.”

We feel it is important to honor contributions like hers, which have such a profound impact on our society, and are happy to be able to do it in a small way in Discovery West by naming a future neighborhood street “Kiessling Way.”