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Vol. LIX, No. 3
February 9, 2007

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NINDS Honors Penn with Symposium

NINDS recently sponsored a scientific symposium in tribute to the research and career of its deputy director, Dr. Audrey Penn. The symposium, “Advances in the Molecular Pathogenesis and Treatment of Myasthenia Gravis and Myasthenic Syndromes,” gathered top scientists to discuss the remarkable progress that has been made in understanding and devising therapies for myasthenia gravis—a rare disorder characterized by varying degrees of muscle weakness— and to recognize Penn for her role in the progress.

NCCAM acting director Dr. Ruth Kirschstein (l) and NICHD deputy director Dr. Yvonne Maddox (r) congratulate
photos: dr. daofen

NCCAM acting director Dr. Ruth Kirschstein (l) and NICHD deputy director Dr. Yvonne Maddox (r) congratulate Penn.

Speakers at the symposium honoring Dr. Audrey Penn (c) included (from l) Drs. John Newsom-Davis, Angela Vincent, Andrew Engel and Bianca Conti-Fine.

Speakers at the symposium honoring Dr. Audrey Penn (c) included (from l) Drs. John Newsom-Davis, Angela Vincent, Andrew Engel and Bianca Conti-Fine.

Held in Lipsett Amphitheater, the symposium featured presentations from a stellar group of scientists in the field of neuroimmunology including Drs. John Newsom-Davis (University of Oxford), Andrew Engel (Mayo Clinic College of Medicine), Angela Vincent (University of Oxford) and Bianca M. Conti-Fine (of Minnesota). Topics included “The Autoimmune Myasthenia: Treatments Old and New,” “Congenital Myasthenic Syndromes,” “Autoimmune Channelopathies: from Neuromuscular Junction to Hippocampus” and “Autoimmunity in Myasthenia.”

In opening remarks, NINDS director Dr. Story Landis reminded audience members that the purpose of the symposium was to honor Penn for her work and not to mark her retirement. “It’s not because she’s retiring, because she’s not retiring,” said Landis. “She’s just going to have a slightly different set of responsibilities.” At the end of 2006, Penn left her post as deputy director, a position she held for 10 years, to work with the institute’s Office of Minority Health and Research. She is senior advisor to the director, NINDS. One of her major projects is to work with NIH’s Specialized Neuroscience Research Programs (SNRP)—an initiative Penn has long championed and has played a major role in developing. Under SNRP, six NIH institutes cooperate to plan, coordinate and direct research and research training programs to attract, retain and develop future minority neuroscience health and research professionals.

Before joining NINDS, Penn was a neurology professor at Columbia University’s College of Physicians and Surgeons and practiced at Columbia-Presbyterian Medical Center. She is one of the nation’s leading neurologists and a well-known scientist specializing in neuroimmunology and neuromuscular disease research. She is especially known for her clinical expertise and accomplishments in research on myasthenia gravis.

A native of New York City, Penn received her undergraduate degree from Swarthmore College in 1956 and her medical degree in 1960 from Columbia University’s College of Physicians and Surgeons. She then trained in neurology at the Neurological Institute, Columbia-Presbyterian Medical Center. As an NINDS special fellow for postgraduate training, Penn studied the biochemistry of muscle proteins implicated in muscle diseases, which later evolved into work on the acetylcholine receptor, the target protein in myasthenia gravis. After serving a term on the National Advisory Neurological Disorders and Stroke Council, Penn was recruited by Dr. Zach Hall (then NINDS director) in 1995 to become his deputy. As a model clinical scientist she was able to work well with the institute’s intramural scientists and staff. And, as a former grantee, she was a good “fit” to work with the institute’s extramural program as well.

During her tenure as deputy director, Penn has twice been called on to serve as acting director— from December 1997 to July 1998 and from January 2001 to September 2003.

After the symposium friends and colleagues came together to celebrate Penn at a dinner.

NIDCR Deputy Director Kleinman Retires

Dr. Dushanka Kleinman

Dr. Dushanka Kleinman, deputy director of NIDCR, retired from government service on Jan. 1 to assume the position of associate dean for research and academic affairs, College of Health and Human Performance, University of Maryland; the college is transitioning to a School of Public Health. Kleinman will also have an appointment as professor in the epidemiology and biostatistics department.

“It has been a privilege and a pleasure to work with Dr. Kleinman,” said NIDCR director Dr. Lawrence Tabak. “As a researcher, administrator and of course as deputy director, she has contributed to our institute in countless ways. She’s a dedicated and talented individual who has also been a gracious representative of NIDCR to the wider research community. We’ll miss her at our institute, but we know she’ll go on to accomplish great things for the University of Maryland.”

Kleinman has served in government for 28 years, 26 of them at NIDCR. She joined what was then NIDR in 1980, and during her early career conducted research on oral mucosal tissue diseases and conditions, directed planning and evaluation activities and managed the epidemiology and oral disease prevention program. She was named deputy director in 1991 and since that time has also assumed the role of institute acting director twice during transitions between directors.

A rear admiral and assistant surgeon general in the Commissioned Corps, she spearheaded the first-ever Surgeon General’s Report on Oral Health, which was published in 2000. In 2001, she was named chief dental officer, PHS, the first woman to hold that position since its establishment in 1923. In that capacity, she coordinated PHS dental programs across government and with the private sector, oversaw the development of A National Call for Action to Promote Oral Health and facilitated the first conference on Dentistry’s Role in Responding to Bioterrorism and Other Catastrophic Events.

Most recently, she was on a detail to the Office of the Director, NIH. During her time there, she was assistant director for the NIH Roadmap for Medical Research and led multiple teams and groups to launch the first series of trans-NIH initiatives designed to transform the nation’s research capabilities and speed the movement of research discoveries from the bench to public health benefit.

Kleinman earned a B.S. in zoology from the University of Wisconsin and a D.D.S. from the College of Dentistry at the of Illinois at Chicago. She interned at the of Chicago Hospital and Clinic’s Zoller Dental Clinic prior to studying at the Goldman School of Dental Medicine at Boston University, where she received an M.Sc.D. in dental public health.

She is active in many professional organizations and has served as president of the American Association of Women Dentists, the American Association of Public Health Dentistry and the American Board of Dental Public Health (ABDPH). Kleinman is also a diplomate of the ABDPH.

She has received many honors and awards, including the PHS Distinguished Service Medal and the PHS Surgeon General’s Exemplary Service Medal. She is also the recipient of the University of Illinois Distinguished Alumni Award, the American Public Health Association’s John W. Knutson Distinguished Service Award in Dental Public Health and the Association of Military Surgeons of the United States Carl A. Schlack Award.

Kalt Appointed NIAID Division of Extramural Activities Director

Dr. Marvin Kalt

Dr. Marvin Kalt has been appointed director of the NIAID Division of Extramural Activities. He will also serve as the institute’s representative to the NIH extramural program management committee and as an NIAID senior advisor on extramural policy.

He comes to NIAID from the Global Health Program of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, where he was responsible for developing the grant-making practices, policies and award mechanisms of the program. Kalt spent 25 years in leadership positions in NIH extramural programs, including service as a senior advisor to the NIH director and as director of NCI’s Division of Extramural Activities. He has received many awards over the course of his government career, including a Presidential Senior Executive Service Meritorious Executive Award and two NIH Director’s awards.

Kalt began his NIH career as a scientific review administrator with the National Institute on Aging. He received his Ph.D. in cell and developmental biology from Case Western Reserve University and completed a postdoctoral fellowship at Yale University. He held both NIH and NSF grants while serving as a faculty member in the basic sciences at the University of Connecticut Health Center in Farmington.

Founding NIGMS Staffer Miller Dies
Dr. Dushanka Kleinman

Dr. Charles A. Miller, who had a distinguished 32-year career at NIGMS, died at his home in Rockville on Dec. 19, following a year-long battle with cancer. At his retirement in 1994, he was director of the institute’s Cellular and Molecular Basis of Disease Program.

Miller came to the NIH Division of General Medical Sciences in 1961 and joined NIGMS when it was created in 1962. He played an important role in building the institute, particularly in the areas of cell biology, biophysics and biochemistry research, training and efforts to increase the number of minority biomedical scientists.

In the 1960s and early 1970s, Miller became increasingly engaged in research training issues and in 1974 became director of the NIGMS training programs, a post he held for close to a decade. In this capacity, he oversaw a shift in predoctoral training from narrow, department-based programs to multidisciplinary approaches. Many view this as a turning point in the history of research training.

“He saw the direction research was heading and changed the way people were being trained,” said Dr. W. Sue Shafer, a friend and colleague who worked for Miller when she first came to NIGMS and later became deputy director of the institute.

While teaching biology at Wabash College in Crawfordsville, Ind., in the 1950s, Miller noticed a dearth of minority science students. Upon coming to NIGMS, he championed the creation of the Minority Access to Research Careers (MARC) program, which supports research training at institutions with substantial minority enrollments. By recognizing early on the value of diversity in the biomedical research enterprise, “he was truly ahead of his time,” said Shafer.

Miller was beloved by many of his NIGMS colleagues. “He had a genuine excitement for science and he conveyed that awe to his staff and grantees,” said Shafer. Dr. John Norvell, who now directs the NIGMS training programs, added, “Charlie was a great boss and colleague who always listened carefully and gave thoughtful and helpful advice.”

Scientists outside NIH described similar lasting impressions of Miller. “There are few people you meet in your life who leave an indelible mark,” said Dr. Saul Roseman, professor of biology at Johns Hopkins University and long-time NIGMS grantee. “Charlie was one of those very rare people. Here was a man who dedicated his life to helping other scientists, who was devoid of ego, who always said what he thought, whose personal qualities were simply admirable and who had such a wonderful sense of humor.”

When asked why so many were touched by Miller, NIGMS branch chief Dr. Warren Jones offered, “Charlie really liked people and enjoyed engaging them. He believed that most people could contribute if given the chance.”

Others recalled Miller’s dedication to research scientists. “He was willing to make waves if necessary to respond to the needs of those on the front lines,” said Dr. Bert Shapiro, an NIGMS branch chief who worked closely with Miller for a number of years. “He really cared about grantees,” added Patty Pluchino, Miller’s long-time secretary. “He was an extraordinary man.”

Miller was known for his office chalkboard, which he covered with ideas that struck his fancy and noteworthy comments made by fellow staff members.

He was a gifted ballroom dancer and colleagues remember being captivated by his grace and elegance when he danced with his wife. He was also a voracious reader and took a lively interest in current affairs and politics.

Miller loved good food and enjoyed dining out. He often amused his companions by ordering his “signature cocktail,” a martini “standing on one leg” [served in a stemmed glass] with a twist. In remembrance of this tradition, the cocktail was placed above the urn carrying Miller’s ashes at a memorial service held Dec. 29 in Bethesda.

Miller was born in Hamilton, Ohio, and received his B.A. from Wabash College and his Ph.D. in biology and biochemistry from Indiana University. He served in World War II in the United States Air Force and was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross for his 35 missions over Germany. Upon his return to the United States, he became active in advocating for the establishment of the National World War II Memorial, which opened on the National Mall in 2004.

His awards included the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare Superior Service Honor Award (1975) and the HHS Senior Executive Service Merit Award (1985). In 2002, he was one of the first recipients of the Geraldine Woods Award made by the annual Biomedical Research Conference for Minority Students. This award recognizes those who have had a significant impact on increasing the number of underrepresented minorities in biomedical science.

Miller was the devoted husband of the late Polly Miller. He is survived by four sons, four grandsons and four sisters. One of his sons, Timothy, works at NIH for a technical security firm. The family suggests that memorial contributions be made to the Montgomery Hospice in Rockville or to the American Cancer Society.

NCI-Frederick Mourns Michejda

Dr. Christopher J. Michejda
Dr. Christopher J. Michejda, an internationally recognized research scientist and head of the molecular aspects of drug design section in NCI’s Structural Biophysics Laboratory, died suddenly Jan. 9 at age 69 while participating in the institute’s annual scientific retreat at the Marriott Conference Center in North Bethesda.

After receiving his Ph.D. in physical-organic chemistry from the University of Rochester, Michejda went on to a postdoctoral fellowship at Harvard University. He was then a professor of chemistry at the of Nebraska in Lincoln. He spent a sabbatical at ETH in Zurich, working with Prof. Vladimir Prelog (1975 Nobel laureate in chemistry). During that time, Michejda developed his interest in chemical aspects of biology. This important turning point in his career was what would become his legacy.

“Dr. Michejda’s original interest in chemical carcinogenesis evolved into a desire to address the fundamental problems in the development of drugs against cancer and viral diseases,” said NCI director Dr. John Niederhuber. “The dedication of our colleague to the field—and to NCI—cannot be overstated. His contributions and his devotion to rational drug design, including his lab’s development of anticancer drugs that have shown promising activity against colon and pancreas xenografts in mice, will be valued for years to come.”

After leaving Switzerland, Michejda began his career in the federal government as program director of chemical dynamics at the National Science Foundation. In 1978, he came to NCI- Frederick, establishing a laboratory under the ABL-Basic Research Program. His initial studies there focused on the chemical carcinogenesis of nitrosamines; this work eventually led him to his work on problems involved in developing drugs against cancer and AIDS.

Under Michejda’s direction, his research group became known for its ability to develop new therapies by combining data from biological studies of disease stages with structural data on potential drug targets within these stages. He pioneered the development of receptor-targeted small-molecule toxins that selectively eliminate tumor cells without harming healthy tissue. This approach, now adopted by many research labs, has made possible the design of new drugs with better selectivity and low toxicity. Most recently—with Dr. Nadya Tarasova—he discovered a novel approach of shutting down the function of cell surface proteins with high selectivity and precision.

Michejda’s pioneering work with bisimidazoacridones resulted in a new class of compounds potently cytotoxic to tumor cells, especially leukemias, liver and pancreatic cancers. His collaborative work with Dr. Susan Keay from the University of Maryland resulted in discovery of a so-called anti-proliferative factor (APF) in bladder epithelium of patients who suffer from interstitial cystitis, which unraveled the cause of the disorder. By identifying the elements necessary for APF to inhibit normal epithelial growth, the Michejda group paved the way for APF to evolve as a potent inhibitor of bladder and renal cancer.

“Chris Michejda was both a very dear friend and an able scientist,” notes Dr. R. Andrew Byrd, chief of NCI’s Structural Biophysics Laboratory. “His dedication to research and to NCI was unbounded. He fostered an interdisciplinary approach, as evidenced by all of his collaborations and his enthusiasm to plan and implement joint conferences. He will be missed.”

Michejda published more than 160 articles and held 15 patents for new therapeutic compounds or concepts. He also served as an associate editor of Cancer Research and on several editorial boards.

Survivors include his wife, Prof. Maria Michejda, who is a stem cell biologist; a daughter, Monika Goodrich of Marco Island, Fla.; brother Albert Michejda of Winter Park, and two grandchildren.

NEI’s Brooks Wins Pediatric Ophthalmology Award

Dr. Brian P. Brooks
Dr. Brian P. Brooks will receive the Young Investigator Award from the American Association for Pediatric Ophthalmology and Strabismus at its annual meeting Apr. 11-15 in Seattle. The NEI staff clinician is also the first recipient of the NEI Clinician-Scientist Development Award and is director of the National Ophthalmic Genotyping Network (eyeGENE). Brooks is “interested in the genetics of uveal coloboma, a developmental eye anomaly that can lead to blindness in children. Currently, very little is understood about the molecular mechanisms of this disease. We hope to find genes for this condition through a combination of clinical and molecular genetic investigations on patients and through laboratory studies involving mouse models, molecular biology and cell/developmental biology.”

Ruffin Receives King Legacy Award For National Service

Dr. John Ruffin
Dr. John Ruffin, director of the National Center on Minority Health and Health Disparities, was honored with the King Legacy Award for National Service on Jan. 14. The award is presented for service at both the national and international levels and recognizes the distinguished leadership and contributions of individuals who have positively affected the global community.

Ruffin joins the ranks of past recipients including Gen. Colin Powell, former U.N. Secretary Kofi Annan, Sen. Bob Dole and a host of international ambassadors including this year’s recipient of the King Legacy Award for International Service, Alexandros P. Mallias, ambassador of Greece.

In his acceptance remarks, at the 16th annual International Salute to The Life and Legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Ruffin urged the audience to think about what King would say about global health disparities were he alive today. He encouraged the group to dream of a pathway to optimal health for all people in all nations. In the words of King, he reminded the audience that: “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.”

Krensky Named NIH Deputy Director for OPASI

Dr. Marvin Kalt

Dr. Alan M. Krensky was recently appointed by NIH director Dr. Elias Zerhouni as the first NIH deputy director for the Office of Portfolio Analysis and Strategic Initiatives. He will assume the post on July 8.

“We are extremely fortunate to have Dr. Krensky join us,” said Zerhouni. “He will play a key leadership role as the Office of Portfolio Analysis and Strategic Initiatives provides an ‘incubator space’ to address critical research efforts in cross-cutting areas of NIH priorities.”

OPASI grew out of NIH’s Roadmap for Medical Research and has two goals: to identify important areas of emerging scientific opportunities or rising public health challenges and to help accelerate investments in these areas to make sure new ideas have a chance to develop. OPASI provides new opportunity for more trans-NIH dialogue, decision-making and funding for scientific priorities and opportunities that would be difficult to support otherwise.

Krensky graduated from the University of Pennsylvania in 1973 and received his M.D. from the of Pennsylvania in 1977. At Stanford School of Medicine, he most recently served as professor of pediatrics, chief of the division of immunology and transplantation biology, associate chair for research in the department of pediatrics and associate dean for children’s health.

His research interests are in human cellular and molecular immunology, transplantation immunology and tumor immunology. He is a member of the American Society for Clinical Investigation and the Association of American Physicians and is a coauthor of more than 240 research papers.

Krensky has received numerous awards including the Award for Excellence in Pediatric Research from the American Academy of Pediatrics, the Scholar in Experimental Therapeutics Award from the Burroughs Wellcome Fund and the Novartis Established Investigator Award from the American Society for Transplantation.

He becomes NIH’s fifth deputy director, alongside principal deputy Dr. Raynard Kington, Deputy Director for Management Colleen Barros, extramural deputy Dr. Norka Ruiz Bravo and intramural deputy Dr. Michael Gottesman.

First NIH World AIDS Day Honors Awarded

Winners of the 2006 NIH World AIDS Day Awards are (from l) Dr. Lynne Mofenson of NICHD, Dr. Edward Berger of NIAID, and Drs. Robert Yarchoan and Hiroaki Mitsuya of NCI.

Winners of the 2006 NIH World AIDS Day Awards are (from l) Dr. Lynne Mofenson of NICHD, Dr. Edward Berger of NIAID, and Drs. Robert Yarchoan and Hiroaki Mitsuya of NCI.

The Office of AIDS Research and NIAID recently initiated a new employee recognition award, the NIH World AIDS Day Award. Each year these awards, which include a $5,000 prize, will recognize NIH scientists and managers who have made exceptional contributions to AIDS research efforts at NIH—either for original science or for support for research. The four 2006 awardees are:

Dr. Edward Berger of NIAID—for his outstanding achievements, groundbreaking discoveries and innovative and original scientific contributions that have advanced AIDS research. He published a landmark paper using a novel method to discover the first HIV coreceptor (fusin, renamed CXCR4), which directly led his and other groups to identify CCR5 as the other major coreceptor. These studies provided new perspectives for understanding how HIV evolves within the body during initial virus transmission, asymptomatic infection and disease progression. The findings continue to be translated into the development of new antiretroviral drugs to treat HIV-infected people, as well as new strategies for designing vaccines and microbicides to prevent infection.

Dr. Robert Yarchoan and Dr. Hiroaki Mitsuya of NCI—for their individual and combined achievements, groundbreaking discoveries and innovative and original scientific contributions that have significantly advanced HIV treatment research. They conducted landmark clinical studies, demonstrating that AZT could result in partial restoration of the immune response and temporary clinical benefit, established the first treatment for HIV infection and launched the era of effective therapy for HIV/AIDS. Their work significantly advanced the field, directly affecting the development of new and better strategies to prevent and treat HIV disease.

Dr. Lynne Mofenson of NICHD—in recognition of her outstanding contributions supporting HIV/AIDS research and programs. Her dedication and leadership of unprecedented extramural efforts significantly contributed to the development of safe and effective treatments for the prevention of mother-to-child transmission of HIV and the treatment of maternal and pediatric AIDS.

Each of the awardees made a presentation to the institute and center directors on Jan. 11 at a session devoted to NIH contributions to AIDS research.

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