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Vol. LVIII, No. 7
April 7, 2006

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NICHD's Chrambach, Pioneer of Protein Separation, Dies

Dr. Andreas C. Chrambach, a pioneer in isolating proteins and a Nazi concentration camp survivor, died Feb. 23 after an automobile accident. He retired as head of NICHD's section on macromolecular analysis last June.

  Dr. Andreas C. Chrambach

He is best known for refining electrophoretic gel separation, a method used to isolate proteins by using an electric current to move them through a porous substance. "Dr. Chrambach was a gifted scientist whose discoveries provided the foundation for numerous other scientific advances," said NICHD director Dr. Duane Alexander. "He was a kind, understanding man who made many friends at the NIH and who will be greatly missed."

Chrambach first came to NIH in 1966 as a visiting scientist in the Endocrinology Branch of the National Cancer Institute. In 1970, he took an appointment as a visiting scientist at NICHD, in the Reproduction Research Branch, and rose to the rank of senior investigator in 1974. In 1983, he became head of the section on molecular analysis, a position he held until he left the institute.

He spent virtually his entire NIH career perfecting the gel electrophoresis technique he first developed in the early 1960s as a research fellow in the department of biophysics at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.

Electrophoresis relies on an electric current to separate proteins from a mixture of similar molecules. Because proteins are of different sizes and carry different electrical charges, they move through the porous gel at different rates and so can be separated from one another.

In a paper published soon after he came to NIH, Chrambach and his coauthors described a technique to stain proteins with the dye Coomassie blue. The article was cited more than 10,000 times in other research papers, making it one of the most heavily cited articles in the scientific literature of that time.

When Chrambach began his work in the early 1960s, electrophoresis was an impractical technique that had few applications.

"Andreas took electrophoresis from an art to a science," said Dr. Josh Zimmerberg, chief of NICHD's Laboratory of Cellular and Molecular Biophysics, under which Chrambach's section on macromolecular analysis was organized. The methods he developed subsequently were used by many other researchers to isolate and characterize various proteins.

In collaboration with former DCRT Director David Rodbard, Chrambach developed methods to isolate proteins while still preserving their natural properties so that their function could be well understood.

"Andreas' great skill was in getting people to work together to solve a difficult problem," said his wife of 36 years, Dr. Birgit An der Lan.

Chrambach was born in 1927, in Breslau, Germany (now Wroclaw, Poland). By the time he entered high school, the Nazis had attained power. Although he was raised as a Catholic, Chrambach and his family were subject to the discriminatory practices of the time: his paternal grandfather and his mother had been born Jewish but had converted to Catholicism.

To escape persecution, the family moved to Hungary. When Chrambach's father was implicated in a coup against Adolf Hitler, Chrambach, his mother, father and brother were arrested and subsequently taken to concentration camps. Chrambach, then 17, and his brother Max, who was 18, were sent to Birkenau, a satellite of Auschwitz. By the end of the war, his father had disappeared and Max had perished at Buchenwald.

"The loss of his brother was the most painful blow of his life," said An der Lan. "He never got over it."

Although his brother did not survive, Chrambach was able to rejoin his mother in Germany after the war.

During her eulogy, An der Lan said that when her husband left the camp, he went immediately to a small church to give thanks for having been spared. He then walked along the banks of a small stream, appreciating its beauty with a new intensity.

In fact, his NICHD colleagues said that his experience at the camp gave him an appreciation for life that few others had.

"He made every second count," said his friend Dr. John Robbins, chief of the Laboratory of Developmental and Molecular Immunity. "He knew how to appreciate good food, good wine and good friends."

Despite his experience at Birkenau, Chrambach was never angry or bitter. He once spoke of how kind the German soldiers had been when they arrested him and his brother, said another friend at NICHD, Dr. Adrian Parsegian, chief of the Laboratory of Physical and Structural Biology.

"He was able to see that we all share a common humanity, even as he saw evil in its worst forms," Parsegian said. "He never let his spirit surrender to hatred."

In addition to his wife, Chrambach is survived by two daughters from a previous marriage, Carla Tesar of Oakland, Md., and Monica Kucich of Maynard, Mass., by two sons from his marriage to An der Lan, Adam Chrambach and Max Chrambach, both of Berlin; and by five grandchildren.

Nayak Retires After Long Career At CSR

Dr. Ramesh K. Nayak  
After almost 28 years of federal service, Dr. Ramesh K. Nayak has retired from his position as scientific review administrator and referral officer in the Center for Scientific Review.

For the last 28 years, he served as a cell and molecular biologist and scientific review administrator in the cell biology integrated review group. He also served as an acting chief of the IRG.

Nayak received his undergraduate and graduate degrees in biology in India and pursued graduate studies at the University of Rhode Island and Oregon State University. After graduating in 1970, he served several years in postdoctoral fellowship and research associate positions at the University of Nebraska and George Washington University Medical School.

After serving as associate professor in the faculty of science at the University of Kuwait, he first started federal service in 1978 as executive secretary of the molecular cytology study section in the Division of Research Grants. He became a DRG referral officer in 1990. He continued to serve as an SRA and referral officer at CSR until his retirement.

Nayak received numerous honors including two NIH Director's Awards for such activities as administering 8 study sections, arranging symposia and contributing to the development of young minority scientists. He also received the NIH Award of Merit.

He expresses his deep appreciation to colleagues and staff in CSR and the institutes for their advice and support in making the review branch and NIH a great place to work. In retirement, Nayak plans to pursue business interests.

Indiana University School of Medicine Honors NIAAA's Li

NIAAA director Dr. Ting-Kai Li has been honored with the establishment of an endowed chair in his name at the School of Medicine of Indiana University. In announcing the endowment, Dr. D. Craig Brater, vice president of Indiana University and dean of the School of Medicine (IUSM), cited Li's long and distinguished affiliation with IUSM as well as "his dedication toward research and leadership in the advancement of medicine."

  Dr. Ting-Kai Li

Li joined the IUSM faculty as professor of medicine and biochemistry in 1971 and was named the John B. Hickam professor of medicine in 1980. In 1985, he was named distinguished professor and from 1985 to 2000 he served as associate dean for research. After leaving IUSM to become NIAAA's director in 2002, he was named distinguished professor emeritus, and professor emeritus of medicine and of biochemistry and molecular biology.

The author of more than 500 journal articles and book chapters, Li is acclaimed for his research on the metabolism and pharmacokinetics of alcohol and the neurobiology and genetics of alcohol-related behavior and responses. Among his numerous honors are the international Jellinek Award and the James B. Isaacson Award, which recognize outstanding contributions to advancement of knowledge in alcoholism research. He is a member of the Institute of Medicine.

Establishment of the chair in Li's name was announced Feb. 24 at the second of two lectures he was invited to give at IUSM as the 2006 Mark Brothers Lecturer. The lectureship recognizes internationally renowned medical scientists of Asian descent, bringing them to the medical school to interact with faculty and students.

NIDA Grantees Win First Sports Illustrated Champion Award

Dr. Linn Goldberg and Dr. Diane Elliot, National Institute on Drug Abuse grantees at the Oregon Health and Science University School of Medicine, recently received the first Sports Illustrated Champion Award at a National Press Club ceremony in Washington, D.C.

NIDA grantees Dr. Diane Elliot and Dr. Linn Goldberg of Oregon Health and Science University received the inaugural Sports Illustrated Champion Award.

The awardees were recognized for their landmark steroid and drug prevention health promotion programs — ATLAS and ATHENA. In 1987, Goldberg and Elliot began investigating the reasons young athletes use anabolic steroids, alcohol and other drugs. Since that time, the team has successfully developed strategies to combat the use of anabolic steroids and other harmful substances among high school athletes.

The Sports Illustrated Champion Award, to be presented annually, comes with a $1 million grant to fight the national problem of steroid use among high school athletes. The grant will fund four regional drug prevention and health promotion workshops across the nation, and a year's worth of public service announcements in Sports Illustrated. Additionally, SI will partner with the Center for Health Promotion Research at OHSU to develop a Sports Illustrated school web site to provide state-of-the-art nutrition, exercise training and drug prevention information for young athletes, parents and coaches.

ATLAS and ATHENA — created in 1993 and 1999 respectively through two NIDA research grants — have been implemented at more than 60 high schools across the nation and designated as national models by Congress, the Department of Health and Human Services, the Department of Education's Safe and Drug Free Schools and NIDA.

The ATLAS curriculum, which emphasizes the use of sports nutrition and strength training as healthy alternatives to steroids, has led to a 50 percent drop in new anabolic steroid use in young male athletes. Similarly, female students enrolled in ATHENA, which promotes the same healthy foods and training strategies, were nearly two times less likely than controls to have used diet pills in the last 3 months.

Collectively, the ATLAS and ATHENA programs continue to demonstrate exemplary work in the arena of steroid use in high school athletes. The Sports Illustrated-OHSU partnership promises to launch an effective national program to prevent steroid and drug use in high school students and promote health for the more than 7 million athletes involved in high school sports.

Shurin Appointed NHLBI Deputy Director

Dr. Susan B. Shurin, a pediatric hematologist and oncologist with experience in both clinical and research activities, was recently appointed deputy director of NHLBI. "To her new position, Susan brings a unique combination of talents and experiences in academic medicine, university leadership and management of complex organizations," said NHLBI director Dr. Elizabeth Nabel. Shurin is a researcher in the hemoglobinopathies and a leader of university programs and professional organizations. Most recently, she served as vice president and secretary of the corporation at Case Western Reserve University. In this position, she served as liaison with the university's board of trustees and advisor to the president. Previously, she was professor of pediatrics and oncology and chief of the division of hematology/oncology of the Rainbow Babies and Children's Hospital, University Hospitals of Cleveland.

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