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Vol. LVIII, No. 8
April 21, 2006

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NIAMS Appoints Scientific, Clinical Directors
  Dr. John O’Shea
  Dr. Dan Kastner

The National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases has appointed Dr. John O'Shea as scientific director and Dr. Dan Kastner as clinical director.

O'Shea has served as chief of the NIAMS Molecular Immunology and Inflammation Branch since 2002. He graduated from St. Lawrence University, Phi Beta Kappa, in 1974, and received his M.D. degree from the University of Cincinnati in 1978. He has made numerous contributions in the area of immune cell signaling, ranging from basic observations to explaining and treating immunological diseases. His work provided insights into the early steps in T cell- and Fc-receptor signaling. He cloned the human protein tyrosine kinase Jak3, and showed that this kinase is an essential element in cytokine signaling. He also shed light on transcription factors employed by key immunoregulatory cytokines, work that led directly to a paradigm in cell signaling and transcriptional control. Importantly, he extended this work in two clinically relevant ways: he showed that mutations of Jak3 are the basis of autosomal recessive forms of severe combined immunodeficiency, and collaborated to develop a selective Jak3 inhibitor, which effectively blocks transplant rejection and thus represents a new class of immunosuppressants.

In addition to serving as clinical director, Kastner is also the NIAMS director of translational research. He has served as chief of the NIAMS Genetics and Genomics Branch since 2002. He received his B.A. degree in philosophy summa cum laude from Princeton University in 1973, and his M.D. and Ph.D. degrees from Baylor College of Medicine. His laboratory played a leading role in defining the genetics and pathophysiology of an inherited group of disorders characterized by recurrent episodes of fever and inflammation. His group mapped and cloned the gene for familial Mediterranean fever. Later, the group discovered mutations in a tumor necrosis factor receptor as the cause of an inflammatory disorder they named and clinically characterized: TNF receptor-associated periodic syndrome. More recently, his laboratory co-discovered mutations in the protein cryopyrin in patients with neonatal-onset multisystem inflammatory disease. Kastner's group was also the first to propose the now widely accepted concept of autoinflammatory disease to describe certain disorders characterized by hyperactivity of the innate immune system.

O'Shea and Kastner are internationally recognized scientists at the forefront of basic, translational and clinical research. Both have received numerous honors and awards and have mentored and trained scores of fellows who have gone on to be leaders in their fields.

NCI's Robert Miller Is Mourned

Dr. Robert Warwick Miller  
Dr. Robert Warwick Miller, 84, scientist emeritus at the National Cancer Institute, died on Feb. 23 at his home in Bethesda. After receiving his M.D. from the University of Pennsylvania, Miller trained in pediatrics, radiation medicine and epidemiology, earning a doctorate in public health at the University of Michigan. In 1961, he joined NCI as chief of the Epidemiology Branch, where he carried out pioneering research on childhood cancer. The relationships he discovered between birth defects and certain tumors (e.g., Wilms tumor) provided important insights into the genetic mechanisms underpinning cancer. Throughout a distinguished career spanning 45 years at NCI, Miller stressed the importance of alert clinical observations in providing initial clues to cancer etiology, and the value of interdisciplinary approaches that integrate the epidemiologic, clinical and basic sciences. A memorial service in his honor will be held on Saturday, Apr. 29 at 1 p.m. in the Clinical Center's Lipsett Amphitheater. For more information, contact Mindy Kaufman, Division of Cancer Epidemiology and Genetics, (301) 496-1611,

CSR Employee Award Encourages Innovation

The Center for Scientific Review has created a new Explorer Award to encourage staff at all levels to think creatively and come up with ideas that will make a difference.

"Innovation is priceless to any organization," says Dr. Toni Scarpa, CSR director. "We must think beyond current practices and perceived limitations to develop new ways of doing things and working together."

CSR director Dr. Toni Scarpa (second from l) meets with Explorer Award winners (from l) Nancy Hafele, Tom Tatham and Richard Panniers.  

The first biannual Explorer Award recently went to three CSR employees who developed computer short-cuts to quickly assemble information that used to take weeks to do manually.

Nancy Hafele, Richard Panniers and Tom Tatham split the $10,000 prize that goes with the new award.

Scarpa said their innovations, collectively dubbed "the Magic Macro," are enabling CSR to more rapidly incorporate reviewer critiques and discussion into the summary statement, thereby speeding its release to applicants and the NIH institutes and centers. These innovations, Scarpa said, "have an impact not just on CSR but also on NIH-wide review operations. They will be invaluable in our efforts to shorten the review cycle."

There were 20 nominations for the award, which Scarpa set up to encourage innovation at a time when grant applications have soared and applicants ask to get their results as soon as possible. He says the value of the ideas and efforts nominated are "worth many, many times the value of the prize."

Panniers and Hafele independently began working on the improvements 2 years ago, developing processes that automatically added summary statement headings and adjusted formatting.

Tatham more recently combined his colleagues' ideas, added coding to standardize the wording of headings to automatically insert application descriptions and to streamline the resulting macro (a series of commands or actions that can be triggered by a single key or symbol). Review administrators can now start finalizing summary statements within a day or two of review meetings, rather than wait the week or more that the old "cut and paste" methods required.

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