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'Bench to Bedside' Research Lauded
NINDS Honors Career of Thomas Chase

By Shannon E. Garnett

NINDS recently sponsored a scientific symposium as a tribute to the long, productive research career of Dr. Thomas N. Chase, chief of the institute's Experimental Therapeutics Branch (ETB). The 1 ½-day symposium brought together leaders in basic and clinical neuroscience to celebrate the remarkable progress that has been made in understanding and devising therapies for neurodegenerative diseases, including Parkinson's disease, and to recognize Chase for his role in that progress.

In opening remarks, NINDS director Dr. Story Landis noted Chase's "archetypal" practice of proposing Roadmap-like themes many years before the current NIH plan was developed. She specifically mentioned Chase's early creation and use of multidisciplinary research teams, his excellent record of training clinical investigators, and especially, his long history of translational or "bench to bedside" research — taking ideas from his research bench to the bedsides of his patients in the form of new therapies and treatments.

Dr. Thomas N. Chase
Chase, a graduate of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Yale University School of Medicine, first came to NIH as an NIMH postdoc training in neuropharmacology. He joined NINDS in 1974 to direct the newly established ETB, with the goal of improving the treatment of neurological disease. Since then, his laboratory has contributed significantly to the discovery of therapies for a number of neurological disorders and conditions through research ranging from basic studies of the function of the normal and diseased nervous system, to clinical studies of novel pharmacotherapy approaches.

Chase has contributed to the development of most of the treatments currently in use for both Parkinson's and Alzheimer's diseases, and his studies have helped shed light on the pathogenesis of Parkinson's disease and the complications that plague some patients after long-term use of dopamine therapy. Very recently, his research group reported on several new drugs developed to treat these disabling complications.

The Chase symposium featured scientific presentations by past and present ETB'ers who have contributed to the field of experimental therapeutics for neurodegenerative disorders. The speakers discussed such topics as "Dopamine Receptors," "Motor Fluctuations and Dyskinesias," "Neuroprotection in Parkinson's Disease" and "Biomarker Research."

Immediately after the symposium, as an added tribute to Chase, the American Society for Experimental NeuroTherapeutics (ASENT), an independent non-profit organization founded by Chase in 1997, hosted a unique, fast-paced forum. The discussion — which consisted of presentations, comments and rebuttals from experts representing key populations including advocacy, industry, government and academia — highlighted some of the most controversial issues in the research community. Participants discussed major opportunities in industry and government that urgently need to be addressed to better serve neurological patients; how industry can maintain pharmaceutical research momentum in the face of demands for price controls and equality in health care delivery; what the government's major focus should be in this new millennium; and how academia can more effectively collaborate with advocacy groups, government and industry to relieve the burden of neurological disease.

NINDS director Dr. Story Landis leads applause for the extraordinary career of Dr. Thomas Chase, chief of the institute's Experimental Therapeutics Branch.

ASENT was created to help ease the process by which new therapies are made available to patients with neurological disorders. Its primary goal is to encourage and advance the development of therapies for nervous system disorders.

At the end of the symposium, Landis presented Chase with a token of appreciation — a copy of the program signed by the many attendees and presenters, to be framed.

"I knew before we started the symposium that Tom has had a remarkable impact on neuroscience," she said in closing, "and the talks from his students and fellows has proven that my notion was correct."

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