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NINDS's Kupferberg Retires After 30 Years

By Shannon E. Garnett

Dr. Harvey J. Kupferberg, who served for many years as chief of NINDS's preclinical pharmacology section, retired on June 14 after 30 years of government service.

"I leave with a great sense of accomplishment," said Kupferberg. "I finished what I wanted to do. I can see my footprints on the sands of life. I cannot ask for more."

Dr. Harvey J. Kupferberg

For years, Kupferberg played an essential role in the NINDS Antiepileptic Drug Development (ADD) program, which funds academic and industrial scientists in the United States, Europe and other parts of the world who conduct preclinical studies and clinical trials of promising new drugs for the treatment of epilepsy. The program — founded in the early 1970's by the late Dr. J. Kiffin Penry, a pioneer in the field of epilepsy research and former chief of the NINDS Epilepsy Branch, and Dr. Roger Porter, former deputy director, NINDS — supports drug screening that significantly shortens industry's time for developing new antiepileptic drugs. The program consists of two major components — preclinical and clinical. Potential therapeutic agents are screened by the program and then evaluated in clinical trials.

Kupferberg developed the preclinical part of the program. In addition to screening the compounds for their potential as therapeutic agents, the preclinical pharmacology section was also responsible for preclinical toxicology, metabolism and mechanism-of-action studies. All of these data are essential for drug development.

Since the program began, NINDS has screened more than 23,000 compounds for their potential in treating seizures. More than 25 of those compounds have reached clinical development status. "NINDS has played a part in every new therapeutic agent now available to the epilepsy community," said Kupferberg. "I believe that no other government program can match our success."

Kupferberg earned his bachelor of science degree in chemistry from the University of California at Los Angeles in 1955. He earned his doctorate of pharmacy degree from the University of Southern California in 1959, and his Ph.D. in pharmacology from the University of California at San Francisco in 1962.

He first came to NIH in 1963 as a postdoctoral staff fellow. In 1965, he left for a life in academia at the University of Minnesota, first as an instructor and then as assistant professor in the pharmacology department.

In 1971, he returned to NIH, joining NINDS as a pharmacologist in the Epilepsy Branch of the institute's extramural Division of Convulsive, Developmental and Neuromuscular Disorders. He became chief of the preclinical pharmacology section in 1982.

Throughout his career, Kupferberg has received many accolades and honors including an Award of Merit for outstanding contributions in pharmacologic development of antiepileptic drugs from the International League Against Epilepsy in 1988, and the first American Epilepsy Society Service Award for his outstanding contributions in the field of epilepsy in 1994. Most recently he was honored at the NINDS Curing Epilepsy Conference, held in March at the Natcher Center, in recognition of his many years of service leading the ADD program.

"We now enter a new era of drug development. The direction Dr. Fischbach is embarking on is a long and difficult one," said Kupferberg. "I will miss being a part of the new direction that has been initiated for our institute. I hope those who follow me will find the same excitement and fulfillment that I have had during my stay at NINDS."

In retirement, Kupferberg plans to stay in the area with his wife, who is chief of the speech pathology section in the Clinical Center's rehabilitation medicine department, and his daughter and grandsons. He also plans to consult on other drug development projects and to pursue his passions for photography and worldwide travel. And, from time to time during the next year, he will be at NIH serving as a special NINDS volunteer, helping with transitions in the ADD program.


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