During his tenure at Baylor, Caskey expanded the research expertise of the department, bringing together geneticists studying a range of species, from humans to mice to fruit flies. He also expanded the department’s size, prioritizing recruitment of the best scientists from across the globe.
Dr. Richard Gibbs, Wofford Cain Chair and Professor of molecular and human genetics and director of the Human Genome Sequencing Center, described himself as “at best, a rough diamond” when Caskey met him in 1985, in Melbourne, Australia, and invited him to become a postdoctoral researcher in his lab at Baylor. He credits Caskey with providing an “unparalleled opportunity” and creating an environment that fostered innovation and success.
Dr. Huda Zoghbi, professor of pediatrics, molecular and human genetics, neurology and neuroscience at Baylor and director of the Jan and Dan Duncan Neurological Research Institute at Texas Children’s Hospital, said Caskey’s leadership was integral to the success of the department.
“The secret sauce, the vision of what we are today, it was really the vision of Tom Caskey,” Zoghbi said. “He really changed Baylor and put us on the map as a research powerhouse.”
Impacting genetic research
Caskey was a national leader in genetic research. He was influential at the earliest meetings about the Human Genome Project, a massive, worldwide effort to sequence the entire human genome. His genetic research identified the genetic basis of 25 major inherited diseases and clarified the understanding of “anticipation” in triplet repeat diseases Fragile X syndrome and myotonic muscular dystrophy. His personal identification patent is the basis of worldwide application for forensic science, and he also was a consultant to the FBI in forensic science.