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Vol. LXII, No. 10
May 14, 2010

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Dr. Daniel Kastner
Dr. Attila Szabo

Two NIH’ers Named to National Academy

Two NIH scientists are among 72 new members and 18 foreign associates from 14 countries elected to the National Academy of Sciences in recognition of distinguished and continuing achievements in original research.

Dr. Daniel Kastner (top) is chief, Genetics and Genomics Branch, and clinical director and director of translational research, Intramural Research Program, National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases.

Dr. Attila Szabo (below) is chief, section on theoretical biophysical chemistry, Laboratory of Chemical Physics, National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases.

The National Academy of Sciences is a private organization of scientists and engineers dedicated to the furtherance of science and its use for the general welfare. It was established in 1863 by a congressional act of incorporation signed by Abraham Lincoln that calls on the academy to act as an official advisor to the federal government, upon request, in any matter of science or technology.

Dr. G. Marius Clore
Dr. Gary Jan Nabel
Dr. Michael Marc Gottesman

Three NIH’ers Elected to American Academy of Arts and Sciences

Three NIH scientists are among the 229 leaders in the sciences, the humanities and the arts, business, public affairs and the nonprofit sector who have been elected members of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

They are Dr. G. Marius Clore (top, r), chief, protein nuclear magnetic resonance section, Laboratory of Chemical Physics, NIDDK; Dr. Gary Jan Nabel (middle, r), director, Vaccine Research Center, NIAID; and Dr. Michael Marc Gottesman (below, r), NIH deputy director for intramural research and chief, Laboratory of Cell Biology, NCI.

The new fellows join one of the world’s most prestigious honorary societies. A center for independent policy research, the academy celebrates the 230th anniversary of its founding this year.

Also included in this year’s class are film director Francis Ford Coppola, actors John Lithgow, Denzel Washington and Steve Martin, jazz saxophonist Theodore Walker “Sonny” Rollins, the presidents of Dartmouth, Georgetown, Notre Dame, Tulane, Northwestern and Northeastern universities and the Archbishop of Canterbury.

Established in 1780 by John Adams and other founders of the nation, the academy undertakes studies of complex and emerging problems. The new class will be inducted at a ceremony on Oct. 9 at the academy’s headquarters in Cambridge, Mass.

Mangan Joins ORWH as Advisor

Dr. Daniel Kastner
Dr. Dennis F. Mangan

Dr. Dennis F. Mangan recently joined the Office of Research on Women’s Health as a senior research advisor working on the analysis and evaluation of research projects supported by ORWH.

He is no stranger to NIH, however. As an assistant professor at the University of Rochester, Mangan led a program in oral microbiology and immunology prior to engaging in advanced research in molecular biology in the lab of Dr. Sharon Wahl in the NIDCR intramural program. He studied the role of programmed cell death in monocyte/macrophage homeostasis. Between 1992 and 2006, he worked in the NIDCR extramural program as a program director in various infectious disease research programs. In 1994, he created one of the first email listservs at NIH to keep the investigators in his portfolio apprised of new programs, funding opportunities and technical assistance in preparing grant applications. Many at NIH remember that he was a passionate advocate for the creation of a Human Microbiome project (now a Roadmap initiative) and research on the beneficial effects of bacteria on humans.

Mangan left NIH in 2006 to become associate dean for research at the University of Southern California School of Dentistry, where he helped faculty and students enhance their research programs and increase funding opportunities from government, industry and foundation sources. He has returned to NIH to join ORWH’s 20th anniversary initiative to identify the most promising areas of research that will advance women’s health and the study of sex and gender differences in medicine over the coming decade.

Mangan has a Ph.D. in microbiology from West Virginia University and postdoctoral training in cellular immunology at the University of Michigan. When not at work, he enjoys golf, hiking and training dogs.

NIH’s Roll-Mecak Wins Searle Award

Dr. Daniel Kastner
Dr. Antonina Roll-Mecak

Dr. Antonina Roll-Mecak, head of the NINDS cell biology and biophysics unit, recently won a $300,000 grant from the Searle Scholars Program. The endowment—which is annually awarded to 15 young investigators conducting research in the chemical and biological sciences—provides $100,000 of research support to its recipients each year for 3 years.

“We are extremely pleased that the Searle program has selected Antonina for this well-deserved honor that not only provides her with tremendous support but also recognizes her promise as a young scientist and the value of her innovative research,” said NINDS director Dr. Story Landis. “She is only the second NIH intramural scientist to win the award since the Searle program began 30 years ago.”

Roll-Mecak has been at NIH for only 7 months and holds a primary appointment in NINDS with a joint appointment in NHLBI. She is currently awaiting the completion of renovations for her new laboratory, which focuses on intracellular organization and movement, with a primary interest in microtubules.

Specifically her group is trying to learn more about two kinds of enzymes: those that take apart and restructure the microtubule network (called microtubule severing enzymes) and those that create diverse chemical changes on microtubule tracks (the tubulin tyrosine ligase-like family of proteins).

Microtubules are components of the cytoskeleton and serve as the structural “scaffold” or platform of all cells. They also are involved in many cellular functions including cell division, migration and tissue growth.

“This award is a validation of my research program and the approaches that I have decided to take in my new lab,” said Roll-Mecak. Her work could have implications for many diseases including neurodegenerative disorders and cancers and may pave the way for future therapeutic interventions.

Roll-Mecak received her undergraduate degree in chemical engineering from the Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art in 1996, and her Ph.D. in molecular biophysics from Rockefeller University in 2002. From 2003 to 2009, she conducted postdoctoral training with Dr. Ron Vale at the University of California, San Francisco. She joined NIH in 2009.

Each year the Searle Scholars Program invites more than 140 top U.S. institutions to nominate up to 2 early-career scientists to become scholars.—

Five Join NIDDK Advisory Council

NIDDK director Dr. Griffin Rodgers (front, c) welcomes new council members (from l) Judy M. Hunt, Dr. Anil K. Rustgi, Dr. Gregory J. Gores and Dr. Francine R. Kaufman. Jane Holt is not shown.

NIDDK director Dr. Griffin Rodgers (front, c) welcomes new council members (from l) Judy M. Hunt, Dr. Anil K. Rustgi, Dr. Gregory J. Gores and Dr. Francine R. Kaufman. Jane Holt is not shown.

NIDDK director Dr. Griffin Rodgers recently welcomed five new members to the National Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases Advisory Council.

Dr. Gregory J. Gores holds the Reuben R. Eisenberg professorship and serves as chair of the gastroenterology and hepatology departments at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn. His research interests include liver cell death, especially apoptosis and the mechanisms by which cancer cells escape cell death.

Jane Holt co-founded and currently serves as co-president of the National Pancreas Foundation, which awards research grants and provides support to patients. She also helps to lead the Digestive Diseases National Coalition, an advocacy organization focused on raising awareness and changing public policy related to digestive diseases.

Judy M. Hunt is on the board of the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation International, the largest charitable funder of diabetes science. She previously held positions with the American Diabetes Association and other diabetes organizations.

Dr. Francine R. Kaufman is chief medical officer at Medtronic Diabetes, which develops insulin pumps and other technology for diabetes care. A pediatrician, she helped to steer NIDDK’s National Diabetes Education Program starting in 2000, chairing that program from 2008 to early 2010.

Dr. Anil K. Rustgi holds the T. Grier Miller professorship and serves as chief of gastroenterology at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine. His research focuses on oncogenes and tumor suppressor genes in gastrointestinal cancers.

NEI’s Caspi Receives Friedenwald Award

Dr. Rachel Caspi
Dr. Rachel Caspi, chief of the immunoregulation section in the Laboratory of Immunology, NEI, recently received the 2010 Friedenwald Award, which is presented each year for outstanding contributions to basic or clinical research in ophthalmology by the Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology. Caspi was honored for her “fundamental and widely influential contributions to ocular and systemic immunology, including the understanding of uveitis as an autoimmune disease, the development and thorough characterization of animal models of autoimmune uveitis, and the nature of autoimmunity.” Her research interests include cellular and molecular mechanisms involved in T cell-mediated, tissue-specific autoimmunity. She is focused on understanding the development and maintenance of self-tolerance to immunologically privileged retinal antigens and on defining the processes that lead to their pathological breakdown. Her goal is to use this knowledge for designing new and effective strategies for immunotherapy. Caspi’s approaches and conclusions can be generalized to other tissue-specific autoimmune diseases.


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