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NINDS Celebrates the Research Accomplishments of Roscoe Brady

By Shannon E. Garnett

Photos By Bill Branson

NINDS recently sponsored a scientific symposium honoring the research career— spanning five decades— of Dr. Roscoe O. Brady, chief of the Developmental and Metabolic Neurology Branch, NINDS. The 2-day symposium, which gathered top scientists to discuss the past accomplishments and future directions of hereditary metabolic disorder research, celebrated the remarkable progress that has been made in understanding and devising therapies for these disorders and recognized Brady for his leadership.

For nearly 50 years, Brady and his team have conducted pioneering research on hereditary metabolic storage diseases (also called lipid or lysosomal storage disorders) such as Gaucher, Niemann-Pick, Fabry and Tay-Sachs— defining much of what is known of their biochemistry, enzymatic bases and metabolic defects. His research has stimulated colleagues throughout the world to define the causes of many other related disorders and inspired investigations in this field.


Dr. Roscoe O. Brady
Brady attended Pennsylvania State University, and received his medical degree from Harvard Medical School. He joined NIH in 1954 as chief of the section on lipid chemistry in the Laboratory of Neurochemistry, NINDB (now NINDS).

"There are very few people who have been at NIH as long as I have, but Ros preceded me by 2 years," said NIH deputy director Dr. Ruth Kirschstein in opening remarks.

Brady and his research team have developed methods to detect carriers of hereditary metabolic storage disorders, methods for the prenatal detection of these disorders and guidelines on providing genetic counseling to at-risk families. In 1991, his team established the first effective treatment — enzyme replacement therapy — for Gaucher disease. By taking their discoveries from bench to bedside, Brady and his team have brought enormous relief to patients— who without treatment suffer from a wide range of symptoms including severe anemia and painful skeletal deformities — and solace to families.

The symposium was rich with science. Speakers, many of whom called themselves Brady protégés, presented on such topics as "Gaucher's Disease: A Saga of Mice and Men," "Advances in Hereditary Spastic Paraplegia" and "Development of Gene Therapy for Hematopoietic Stem Cells." Other presentations traced the histories of Fabry disease, Niemann-Pick disease, Batten disease (neuronal ceroid lipofuscinosis), Rett syndrome, and Tay-Sachs disease, bringing the audience up to date on what is known about the disorders, new findings and potential cures.

Dr. Ruth Kirschstein (c) and Dr. Katherine Bick (l) chat with Brady at the scientific symposium given in his honor. Brady was also presented with a proclamation from the Montgomery County Executive's office naming Oct. 8, 2002, as Roscoe Owen Brady Day in recognition of his outstanding achievements.

Although many commented on Brady's research leadership and his impact on their work, several others — including Randy Yudenfriend, president of the Mucolipidoses IV Foundation, and Abbey Meyers, president of the National Organization for Rare Disorders (NORD) — focused on his clinical side, describing how he has touched and changed the lives of his patients. NORD recently established the Roscoe O. Brady Investigator Fellowship Program, which supports research on lipid storage disorders. In addition, impromptu remarks were made by one of Brady's former patients, who traveled from Germany for the program and thanked him for his research saying, "You have made a difference in my life."

Of special note was a presentation by former NINDS director Dr. Zach Hall titled "Roscoe Brady: A Scientist for All Seasons." Now senior associate dean of the Keck School of Medicine at the University of Southern California, Hall began by asking, "How can I summarize, in a few minutes, a career that has been so rich in accomplishments?" He then briefly outlined the six stages of Brady — chemist, classical biochemist, enzymologist, cell biologist, clinical researcher and gene therapist — which he likened to Shakespeare's Seven Stages of Man.

"You might have noticed that Shakespeare had seven stages of man, while I only have six," said Hall. "Well, we're still waiting for the seventh stage of Roscoe Brady."

At the end of the meeting, NINDS acting director Dr. Audrey Penn read a special congratulatory letter from President George W. Bush, and presented Brady with a portfolio containing a sketch of Brady signed by his friends and colleagues and a bookcase containing bound volumes of all of his work to date. NIDDK scientist emeritus and long-time colleague Dr. Peter Pentchev then turned to Brady and noted that there is room in the bookcase for more volumes "so you still have a lot of work ahead of you."

Currently Brady's team is examining enzyme replacement therapy and gene therapy for patients with other hereditary metabolic disorders.

Dr. Peter Pentchev (l) and Dr. Audrey Penn present Brady (c) with a commemorative portfolio containing a sketch signed by his friends and colleagues.

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