In Memory of Frank F. Davis

Frank F. Davis

Frank F. Davis, long-time Bay Area resident, EBCF donor and recipient of the 2013 CAL Alumnus of the Year Award, passed away on May 19, 2021 in Oakland at age 100 after a brief illness.

Davis, who received his PhD in biochemistry from CAL in 1955, invented PEGylation, which chemically camouflages proteins to prolong their circulating life and reduce immunogenicity. Before his invention, proteins and other biological molecules were rarely used as medicine because of the body’s immune response. PEGylation, which spawned 20 FDA-approved drugs and a global industry worth an estimated $12 billion today, helped usher in the biopharmaceutical revolution.

Raised in Oregon during the Great Depression, Davis experienced a transient and difficult childhood. At 19, he became an airplane mechanic at Douglas Aircraft in Santa Monica. When World War II broke out, Davis was sent to repair fighter planes in Europe, North Africa and the Middle East. He met his future wife Kay in Honolulu at war’s end and with her help, along with the GI Bill, he first stepped foot inside a college classroom at age 27.

Throughout his life, Davis was passionate about helping disadvantaged youth and protecting the democratic values he’d fought for. Frank and Kay created a college fund for children within their extended families and supported many youth initiatives through a donor-advised fund at EBCF. Following his 2013 award, Davis established an endowed fund for graduate student research at CAL. His spirit of courage and generosity will be deeply missed by his family, friends and members of the EBCF community.

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