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NCI's Sylvia Downing Dies

Sylvia Justine Turner Downing, a biochemist and cell biologist with the National Cancer Institute, died Feb. 15 at George Washington University Hospital.

A native of Hampton Roads, Va., Downing attended Oberlin College in Ohio, graduating in 1960 with a bachelor's degree in chemistry. She began her scientific career with NCI in 1960 on the Metabolism Service (later the Metabolism Branch) and became a member of the endocrinology section when it was formed within the Metabolism Branch. In 1990, she joined the newly established Laboratory of Nutritional and Molecular Regulation at the Frederick Cancer Research and Development Center and was a staff member of the LNMR until her death.

Downing made numerous scientific contributions in the area of amino acid metabolism and cellular regulation; her professionalism and expertise were recognized by her peers. She served on both the promotion review panel for the Division of Cancer Biology and Diagnosis from 1987 to 1989 and the lab specialist promotion review panel for NCI from 1995 to 1997. Noted for her generosity and charitable activities, she was active in the Combined Federal Campaign (serving as a keyworker in 1968, 1975, 1990, and 1994) and provided opportunities for disadvantaged students to attend performances of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra in Frederick.

Donations in her memory may be made to the BSO in Frederick with a notation that it is for "The Sylvia J. Downing Student Concert Fund," P.O. Box 453, Frederick, MD 21705.

Immunologist Shahin Mourned

Dr. Roberta Shahin, an immunologist at the Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research (CBER), FDA, died on Feb. 26 after a sudden acute illness. She worked at CBER in the Laboratory of Pertussis leading a team studying the protective immunity against pertussis disease (whooping cough).

Dr. Roberta Shahin

She developed a mouse model of respiratory B. pertussis infection in mice. This model was used to test mucosal delivery systems for pertussis antigens, and to unravel the protective mechanisms involved in primary and secondary immunity to pertussis infection. Shahin's work was instrumental in demonstrating that antibodies to pertactin, one of the antigens included in many of the current acellular DTaP vaccines, were sufficient to mediate protection in this model. Further, she showed that this previously unrecognized protein was present in one of the first acellular pertussis vaccines licensed for use in the United States. In addition to her research, Shahin also served as an expert reviewer of applications for new acellular pertussis vaccines.

A native of New York, she received her doctorate from Johns Hopkins University in 1985 and joined CBER in 1987 after a postdoctoral fellowship in the department of clinical immunology at the University of Göteborg, Sweden. Shahin was a member of the American Society for Microbiology and the Society for Mucosal Immunity and was a frequent invited speaker on the topic of mucosal immunity.

She was a member of the NIH day care oversight board, giving thoughtful service on behalf of many families in the NIH community.

She is survived by her husband, James Dougherty, and daughter Kate, her parents, Dr. and Mrs. Gordon Shahin, sisters Mary Beth Nieman and Nancy Itteilag, and brother Gordon.

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