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Vol. LXII, No. 24
November 26, 2010

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Former NIAID Immunologist Green Mourned

Former senior investigator in NIAID’s Laboratory of Immunology Dr. Ira Green died on Oct. 22 at age 84.
Former senior investigator in NIAID’s Laboratory of Immunology Dr. Ira Green died on Oct. 22 at age 84.

Dr. Ira Green, an immunologist and former senior investigator in NIAID’s Laboratory of Immunology, died on Oct. 22 after a long bout with Alzheimer’s disease. He was 84.

Green was responsible for many major advances in immunology. His most notable accomplishments were in the understanding of how immune response (Ir) genes mediated their function, work that contributed importantly to the Nobel Prize that his research mentor, Baruj Benacerraf, received. Green was among the first to use newly developed methods to determine the cellular origins of leukemias and lymphomas and was a leader in the analysis of the biologic properties of Langerhans cells, particularly in the determination of their antigen-presentation capacities.

Born in New York City, he served in the Navy during World War II. He received a B.A. from New York University in 1949 and an M.D. from the State University of New York Downstate Medical Center in 1953. After house staff training at Montefiore Hospital and the New York Veterans Administration Hospital, Green briefly practiced internal medicine and then was a member of the hematology research group at Montefiore Hospital from 1960 to 1964.

In 1964, he changed his career path and joined the Benacerraf laboratory at NYU School of Medicine as a special fellow of the PHS.

Green was responsible for the NYU lab’s research program on Ir genes. Among his notable contributions was the demonstration that in transfer models, monogenic control of responsiveness to simple antigens was a property of the recipient, a finding that paved the way to the understanding that Ir gene products mediated their function on antigen-presenting cells, a subject to which he and his postdoctoral fellow Ethan Shevach would make notable contributions after Green came to NIH in 1968. In the NYU era, Green also showed that individual antibody-producing cells secreted antibodies of only a single specificity, a notable confirmation of the clonal selection theory.

After returning briefly to Montefiore, Green joined Benacerraf and Dr. William Paul, who had also been at NYU, in 1968 in moving to the Laboratory of Immunology. He became a senior investigator in LI, a position he held until 1986. At NIH, he made major contributions to determining the locus of action of Ir gene products, to the recognition that these were class II MHC molecules and to the demonstration that they played a key role in the activation of antigen-specific T cells. Much of this work was carried out with Shevach.

Green then turned to his original research theme, hematology, and used the developing tools of immunology to identify the cellular origin of various leukemias and lymphomas working with a group of colleagues including Elaine Jaffe, Rick Edelson, Michael Frank and Shevach.

“One of Ira’s most endearing and important traits was his ability to spot the ways in which individuals with different skills and knowledge could be brought together into a highly productive collaborative group,” remembers Paul. “He was always the spark plug of such interactions and made it possible for a wide range of important discoveries to be made.”

Another notable area was his work on understanding the immunologic function of epidermal Langerhans cells, where he collaborated closely with Steve Katz, George Stingl, Shevach and others.  

Green trained a series of research fellows who became highly successful independent scientists, including Laurie Glimcher and Shevach. His work was recognized by election to the American Society for Clinical Investigation, by the receipt of a PHS Superior Service Award and of the Philip Hench Award from the Association of Military Surgeons of the United States. He was listed by Current Contents as among the 300 most highly cited scientists for the period 1965-1978.  

Green left LI in 1986 to join the NCI Biologic Response Modifiers Program in Frederick and in 1990 moved to the Agency for Health Care Policy Research. He retired from government service in 1994.

Said Paul, “Ira was one of the handful of individuals responsible for the growth of the intramural NIH immunology community from its very modest beginnings into its current status as one of the world’s leading centers of research.”

He is survived by his wife, Terry Green, two children, Robert Green of Bethesda and Emily Schneider of Knoxville, Tenn., and two grandchildren, Reed and Lily Schneider.

NCI’s Karen Johnson Dies

Dr. Karen Audrey Johnson

Dr. Karen Audrey Johnson, longtime chief of the breast and gynecologic cancer research group in NCI’s Division of Cancer Prevention, died on Aug. 19 after combating ovarian cancer for more than 12 years.

“Karen was passionate about prevention,” said Dr. Leslie G. Ford, associate director for clinical research in DCP. “She firmly believed that prevention was the preferred route to addressing the burden of cancer.”

Johnson graduated from Washington College in Chestertown, Md., in 1968 with a bachelor’s degree in chemistry. She went on to complete a doctorate in inorganic chemistry from the University of Delaware in 1972, subsequently working as a research chemist for DuPont Corp. After the death of her father from cancer, she entered Jefferson Medical College in Philadelphia, where she received her medical degree.

In 1984, she began a medical oncology fellowship at Georgetown University. Johnson joined NCI in 1986 as one of the first prevention fellows and upon completion, she returned to Georgetown as an attending physician in the department of medical oncology. In 1991, she rejoined NCI as a breast cancer expert. She earned a master’s in public health from Johns Hopkins University in 1995.

A 2-year hiatus from NIH was completed with service as a medical reviewer at the Food and Drug Administration from 1996-1998. Johnson then returned to NCI and was appointed chief of the breast and gynecologic cancer research group, remaining there until her death.

“Karen was instrumental in helping us develop our clinical cancer prevention program,” said Dr. Powel Brown, chair of the department of clinical cancer prevention at M.D. Anderson Cancer Center. “Working with her was probably the most productive collaboration I’ve had in science. Karen was always helpful and supportive and would come up with constructive suggestions to move us forward.”

Among Johnson’s many awards was the Washington College Alumni Citation for Medicine in 1998 and the Washington College Service Award in 2008. She also co-authored several books on the management of cancer in addition to numerous articles on preventing cancer through the use of chemoprevention.

NCI’s Vogel Succumbs to Kidney Cancer

Dr. Jonathan Carl Vogel
Dr. Jonathan Carl Vogel of NCI’s Dermatology Branch died Oct. 30 at age 56.

Dr. Jonathan Carl Vogel, an intramural physician- scientist in the Dermatology Branch, National Cancer Institute, died of kidney cancer on Oct. 30 at age 56.

He was a mentor to a generation of researchers and, as news of his death spread, sympathy poured in from around the world for his survivors— his wife Betsy and his children Nora, Hannah and Max.

From Japan, Germany, Austria and from labs across the country, colleagues recalled a thoughtful friend marked by his collegiality, integrity, humor and humility. They spoke of him as an able collaborator who relished exploration and the critique and defense of complex ideas. They recalled how Vogel had managed to balance his professional and private life. His family enriched his life immeasurably, so he in turn tried to enrich the lives of patients through his research.

Vogel was born and reared in Carlyle, Ill., earning his M.D. from Rush Medical College in Chicago in 1981. He completed his internal medicine residency at Barnes Hospital, Washington University Medical Center, St. Louis, followed by a fellowship at NCI, where he worked in Dr. George Khoury’s lab.

After accepting a 3-year faculty position at the Holland Laboratories of the American Red Cross in Rockville, Vogel returned to NCI, joining the Dermatology Branch. There he focused on skin gene therapy and keratinocyte stem cells. His dream was to genetically modify keratinocytes so they could work as delivery vehicles for important metabolic molecules such as insulin and growth factors.

Throughout his career in medicine, Vogel excelled in research and strove to develop strategies and treatments that would improve quality of life and length of survival for his patients. Despite the best efforts of many at NCI and in other research centers, his own survival was cut short by cancer.

Mitchell Honored by Radiation Research Society

Dr. James B. Mitchell

NCI’s Dr. James B. Mitchell was honored at the 56th annual meeting of the Radiation Research Society (RRS) with the Failla Award. The Failla Award/Lectureship has been bestowed by the society annually since 1963 for a distinguished career in radiation research. Mitchell’s lecture titled “Chasing Free Radicals in Cells and Tissues,” provided an overview of his research over the past three decades. He received the 17th RRS Young Investigator Award in 1989 and served as president of the society in 2001. Mitchell joined NCI in 1979 and has served as chief of the Radiation Biology Branch since 1993. His research focuses on modification of the radiation response, oxidative stress and functional tissue imaging using free radical probes.

Grantees Win Prince of Asturias Award

NIDA grantee Linda Watkins (l) and NINDS grantee David Julius (c), Baruch Minke (r).

NIDA grantee Linda Watkins (l) and NINDS grantee David Julius (c) both received the 2010 Prince of Asturias Award for Technology and Scientific Research recently from the Prince of Asturias Foundation for their research into improved medications for pain relief. The awards are given to “encourage and promote the scientific, cultural and humanistic values that form part of mankind’s universal heritage.” They received the award from the prince of Asturias, who is heir to the throne of Spain, at an award ceremony that took place in Oviedo, the capital of Asturias, Spain. The involvement of the royal family, including the king and queen, brings out tens of thousands of onlookers to greet the winners, with a telecast seen all over Europe. The third co-winner, Baruch Minke (r), is not supported by NIH.

OER’s Ellis Wins Carrabino Award

Joe Ellis

Joe Ellis, director of the Office of Policy for Extramural Research Administration within the Office of Extramural Research, has won the National Council of University Research Administrators’ Joseph F. Carrabino Award. The honor recognizes a federal partner who has made a significant contribution to research administration.

“Joe is the perfect recipient of this award. He is the bridge between NIH and the research community,” said Regina White, vice president of research administration at Brown University, who nominated him for the award. “He is as committed to the research agenda and faculty as any one of us.”

White, who was Ellis’s predecessor at OPERA, the NIH hub for policy and compliance issues related to extramural grants, noted that he had an extraordinary knowledge of the arcane technical details of federal policy and a remarkable ability to explain it to program staff at research institutions.

Ellis is the second NIH’er to receive the award; the first was Marcia Hahn, director of OPERA’s grants policy division, who was honored last year.

“I try not to put myself into the spotlight because so much of what I do is a team effort,” said Ellis, who has won nine NIH Director’s awards and six OD Merit Awards since 2005. “Many people have made significant contributions and I get the credit.”

This award, he acknowledges, is special because he was nominated by his peers outside of NIH. “To be selected from among the wonderful federal employees in the [extramural research] area means a lot to me,” he said.

A certified public accountant by profession, Ellis joined NIH as an auditor in 1978 but eventually gravitated to the grants field, spending 12 years as chief of grants management at NIA and then NIGMS before joining OER.

“He oversees critical policy developments that impact grantees and is a liaison between the research administrators and NIH on administrative issues,” said Dr. Sally Rockey, NIH deputy director for extramural research and OER director. “The research community has grown to trust him extraordinarily and view him as a true partner. Joe is really a great example of how government officials should be.”

Ellis received the Carrabino award at a NCURA luncheon in Washington, D.C. on Nov. 1.—

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