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Vol. LXIII, No. 2
January 21, 2011
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Milestones

Stroke Association Honors NINDS’s Hallenbeck

Dr. John Hallenbeck will receive the Thomas Willis Award in February.
Dr. John Hallenbeck will receive the Thomas Willis Award in February.

Dr. John Hallenbeck, chief of NINDS’s intramural Stroke Branch, will receive the American Stroke Association’s highest honor, the Thomas Willis Award, at ASA’s International Stroke Conference in February. He will deliver the Willis lecture, “Tracks of a Non-Main Path Traveler,” on Feb. 9 in Los Angeles.

The award is given annually to a senior investigator who has made outstanding contributions in the field of stroke over a sustained period during his/her career. The award was established in honor of Dr. Thomas Willis, a pioneering physician credited with providing the first detailed descriptions of the brainstem, cerebellum and ventricles along with hypotheses on their functions.

“Through his laboratory and clinical efforts, Dr. Hallenbeck has led the Stroke Branch by example, providing strong mentorship to fellows and staff,” said NINDS deputy director Dr. Walter Koroshetz. “In his pursuit of an effective means to protect the brain from ischemic injury, Dr. Hallenbeck developed an innovative immune-tolerizing strategy that should soon be tested in patients at high risk for stroke.”

Hallenbeck received his medical degree from the University of Pennsylvania in 1966. After a medical internship and neurology residency at the University of Michigan, he entered the U.S. Navy. At the Naval Medical Research Institute, his research focused on central nervous system decompression sickness and air embolism and later the study of inflammatory and immune mechanisms in acute brain ischemia. In 1983, he was appointed chief of the Navy’s neurology training program at the National Naval Medical Center. From 1983 to 1991, he served as professor of neurology and physiology at the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences and as vice chairman and chairman for research in its neurology department. He joined NINDS in 1991 as chief of the newly created Stroke Branch.

Currently his lab is studying the cellular regulation of ischemic tolerance and inflammatory and immune mechanisms in the initiation and progression of stroke.—

NCI’s Chu Retires After 39+ Years

Dr. Kenneth Chu

Dr. Kenneth Chu, chief of the Disparities Research Branch in NCI’s Center to Reduce Cancer Health Disparities (CRCHD), retired Dec. 31, 2010. He describes his 39 years and 2 months of government service as a long and winding road.

Four decades ago, he turned his career focus from artificial intelligence and private industry to public service and took a position in the Carcinogenesis Testing Program at the Division of Cancer Cause and Prevention. Chu ended up working in that area for about a decade, co-authoring more than 175 NCI Carcinogen Bioassay Technical Reports, the results of which have been used to regulate carcinogenic compounds.

His second decade of service to NCI saw him work in the area of breast cancer and early detection guidelines, at the Division of Cancer Prevention and Control. He published the first paper based on clinical trials that showed mammography and clinical breast examination were beneficial for women ages 40-49. These findings helped lay the foundation for recommendations that mammography screenings begin at age 40 rather than 50.

In his last decade at NCI, Chu nurtured the creation of CRCHD. He provided leadership in the establishment of a number of community-based programs for reducing cancer disparities through outreach, research and training. His major legacy was pioneering cancer health disparities research encompassing not just social sciences, but also basic sciences.

“Ken Chu is one of those extraordinary individuals who, for almost four decades, made seminal observations that are key to our understanding of cancer health disparities research,” said Dr. Sanya Springfield, CRCHD director. “He is not only a prolific researcher but, as chief of the Disparities Research Branch, he was also a great mentor. Those who worked with him affirm he helped raise their game to a higher level.”

“It’s a pleasure to pursue opportunities you perceive to be important. It never feels like work because you’re doing what you love,” Chu said. “That’s the beauty of the NIH atmosphere.”

Reflecting on his career, Chu muses, “Science is like sand on a beach. Whatever footprints you make may change over time and may even get washed away as new discoveries are made. It’s a humbling experience. You hope you make an impact, but you don’t know how long it will last.”

Chu hasn’t any firm retirement plans yet, “which is not like me to not plan ahead,” he laughs. All he knows is that, at a minimum, it will include golf, travel and quality time with his wife, Irene, daughters, Katherine Hickman and Kristine Chu, and grandchildren, Chloe and Haley Hickman. Judging from his past, it will be a retirement with many interesting twists and turns along the way.

CIT Executive Officer Wimsatt Retires

Kathy Wimsatt

After 31 years at NIH, CIT Executive Officer Kathy Wimsatt has retired from federal service. Her professional progression mirrored her working world: from a clerk to a leadership position; from voluminous paper-based processes to sophisticated technology systems.

A newly minted GS-2, Wimsatt started on New Year’s Eve 1979 as a “floater clerk” in Bldg. 1 for the Office of the Director. She discovered that a floater clerk works wherever needed. While she didn’t get a desk of her own, she did get the privilege of becoming the “go to” person for NIH associate directors and their staff, a fortuitous start to a career in administration.

Wimsatt soon took on the role of administrative assistant in the Office of the Director. Immersed in management operations, budget and procurement, she met high-level officials and relished the Bldg. 1 family atmosphere.

In 1985, Wimsatt accepted a position as a space management specialist in the former Space Management Branch in ORS—one of the first women hired as such—dealing with leases, construction and renovation projects. The following year, she returned to her budget roots, taking a training position as a budget assistant in the then-combined OD/ORS Budget Office. “It was a true challenge at the beginning,” said Wimsatt. “I had so much to learn but was surrounded by great people who had been doing this for many years and shared their wisdom.”

After 12 years working as a budget analyst in the OD Budget Office, Wimsatt joined the new Center for Information Technology as a financial management analyst in 1998. She became chief financial officer in 2000 and, in 2004, was named executive officer. Wimsatt has contributed to many CIT initiatives affecting NIH and successfully led the 2009 NIH CFC campaign.

Following her parents and brothers, who worked at NIH at various times since the 1950s, Wimsatt continues her legacy through her son and daughter-in-law, also NIH’ers.

During her career, Wimsatt advised new employees and interns, “You have to work hard and learn something new in your job each and every day. There is always something you could be doing better or processes to be improved. You have to make that happen—it’s up to you.”

In retirement, Wimsatt looks forward to traveling, enjoying nature, volunteering, learning new things and spending time with her family and friends.

HIV Vaccine Research Leader Johnston Retires from Federal Service

At her retirement party, Dr. Peggy Johnston (c) is flanked by Sheryl Zwerski (l), acting director of the Prevention Sciences Program in the NIAID Division of AIDS, and Dr. Susan Plaeger, director of the division’s Basic Sciences Program.
At her retirement party, Dr. Peggy Johnston (c) is flanked by Sheryl Zwerski (l), acting director of the Prevention Sciences Program in the NIAID Division of AIDS, and Dr. Susan Plaeger, director of the division’s Basic Sciences Program.

After 21 years of distinguished government service, Dr. Peggy Johnston, director of the Vaccine Research Program in NIAID’s Division of AIDS, retired at the end of 2010. She leaves behind big shoes to fill.

“She’s got it all,” said NIAID director Dr. Anthony Fauci. “She is very, very bright, she has an encyclopedic knowledge of the field and she has extremely good judgment in an area that can be controversial. Her service to NIH has been extraordinary.”

“She’s a giant in the field,” added Dr. Seth Berkley, president and CEO of the International AIDS Vaccine Initiative (IAVI).

Colleagues say they will miss Johnston’s clear and steady scientific leadership and her insightful advice. “Peggy has a very effective way of deconstructing problems and coming up with possible solutions that take into account what is best for the science,” said Dr. Carl Dieffenbach, director of the NIAID Division of AIDS.

Johnston joined NIAID in 1987 as a program officer in the AIDS Program and rose to positions of progressively greater responsibility and scope, becoming deputy director of the Division of AIDS in 1993. She left NIH in 1996 to become IAVI’s founding scientific director and first senior vice president for scientific affairs. Drawn back to NIAID by the opportunity to develop its extramural HIV vaccine research program, Johnston returned in 1998 to serve as director of the DAIDS Vaccine and Prevention Research Program (now the Vaccine Research Program). She held this position until her retirement, managing a $351 million research portfolio by 2010.

“I feel fortunate to have had the opportunity to contribute in a small way (most of the time) and in a more significant way a few times to major advances in the fight against HIV/AIDS in this country and globally,” Johnston reflected. “I am particularly gratified that NIAID was a key partner with the U.S. Army and others in RV144, an HIV vaccine trial in Thailand that demonstrated for the first time that a vaccine can protect against HIV acquisition.”   

Regarding her retirement, she said, “I look forward to new opportunities to contribute to the fight against HIV/AIDS with a more flexible schedule, so that I can take more and longer bike rides and perhaps even get a puppy.”

This year, Johnston will serve as a consultant to NIAID on several special projects, including the re-engineering of the institute’s clinical trials networks.

“We at NIAID are grateful to Dr. Johnston for creating a globally recognized HIV vaccine research program that is well positioned to continue the search for an effective HIV vaccine,” said Fauci.

OHR’s Walton Passes at Age 54

Shown receiving a performance award in an undated photo with NIH Deputy Director for Management Colleen Barros (l) is Grace Walton, a longtime member of NIH’s human resources community who died on Dec. 11.
Shown receiving a performance award in an undated photo with NIH Deputy Director for Management Colleen Barros (l) is Grace Walton, a longtime member of NIH’s human resources community who died on Dec. 11.

Grace Walton, lead human resources specialist for staffing and classification supporting the Office of the Director, died on Dec. 11. She was 54. She had spent more than 37 years working in NIH’s HR community.

A teenaged Walton started at NIH as a student aide in June 1973. She attended American University and worked here under the Stay-in-School Program. It was in that role that she happened to administer the oath of office to Sara Calhoun when Calhoun began working at the then Division of Research Resources in September 1976. They became friends as well as coworkers and kept tabs on each other.

“In recent years we’d had elder care issues in common,” said Calhoun, who now serves as NCRR controlled correspondence coordinator. “We were at one time both taking care of an ill parent and we would chat about things like that. Grace was very well loved and very kind. She always had a smile on her face. She was also very competent. Her [executive officer] relied on her for all sorts of advice.”

In 1979, Walton took a position as a personnel clerk. She became a personnel management specialist in April 1982, serving DRR. In 1990, she became an HR team leader for the National Center for Research Resources. Then came department-wide HR consolidation in 2002. Various changes in responsibilities and duties resulted, but Walton’s commitment to HR never wavered. She had supported OD in several HR capacities since December 2006, serving as acting chief for Branch B from April to October 2008.

“I began working with Grace in 2003 when I became her branch chief,” said Lori Thompson, former Branch B chief. “Over time, she became my deputy and we worked very closely together until I left that position in April 2008. I couldn’t have asked for a better deputy both for her technical abilities, her personal skills and her unwavering support. The time I had with Grace was a gift and I am so proud to have called her a friend. She was a kind spirit who truly saw the good in others. Her life was devoted to taking care of others. That’s a rare and special quality.”

Sean Stroud of Branch D in the OHR Client Services Division knew Walton for 23 years and worked with her for more than a decade. He said he and other coworkers marveled that they always heard the same comments from colleagues and clients who had encountered Walton.

“Everyone—every single person—told us the same story,” he said. “‘Grace is so friendly. She’s so nice. She’s so helpful.’ To me, that says she was very consistent in the way she lived her life.”

According to Marlene Harper, another Walton coworker in the Client Services Division, Walton was the go-to person for any institutional knowledge.

“Whenever I’d have a question about some issue, especially something that may have happened years ago, I was always told, ‘Check with Grace,’” said Harper. “If Grace didn’t know the answer right off, she’d research it for you. She was always extremely helpful. Grace was truly one of the nicest people I have had the pleasure to work with at NIH. She had a fantastic sense of humor and could always lighten the moment.”

Another colleague of Walton’s, Robin Stephens, lead HR specialist in Branch B, described working with her: “Grace was like sunshine, her presence was always so warming. She was so patient and never said a harsh word toward or about anyone. She always saw the brighter picture...She was the glue that kept it and us together. She was our shield that protected us from ourselves and others. She was our teacher who showed us grace and professionalism. Grace had so much knowledge of HR and the history behind each case. Truly she’s irreplaceable.”

Over the course of her career here, Walton received nine Special Act Awards. She spent vacations volunteering in her church, teaching at vacation Bible schools and giving to others.

Survivors include a sister, Marilyn Thomas of the NIH Office of Extramural Research, and a brother, Douglas Walton.

LI Mourns Research Biologist Rinker

Austin Granvel Rinker, Jr.

Austin Granvel Rinker, Jr., 55, a research biologist in NIAID’s Laboratory of Immunology, succumbed to cancer on Dec. 7 at Washington County Hospital, Hagerstown.

Rinker served as a research biologist in the lymphocyte biology section of the Laboratory of Immunology from May 1991 until his death. He was a veteran of the U.S. Army National Guard as well as the U.S. Army and a former deputy sheriff in Washington County. He earned an A.A.S. degree in law enforcement from Hagerstown Community College in 1976, a B.S. degree in sociology from the University of Baltimore in 1978, a B.S. degree in biology from Frostburg State College in 1981 and an M.S. degree in biomedical sciences from Hood College in 1984. Rinker also did postgraduate studies at the University of Toledo and Wayne State University.

During his time at NIH, he conducted molecular analyses of the immune response. He was an expert on site-directed mutagenesis and helped several generations of postdoctoral fellows advance their research by providing critical expression constructs. He was meticulous in his work, signing his notebooks at the end of each day. His careful attention to detail ensured that several decades of stored DNA samples in the lymphocyte biology section were maintained and inventoried so they could be effectively used not only within the laboratory, but also by hundreds of scientists around the world to whom he supplied reagents in a timely manner.

Rinker’s true passion, however, was the emergency medical services (EMS) of Washington County. This activity started 42 years ago, when he became a junior member of the Community Rescue Service (CRS). Rinker (“Rink” to his friends) was a household name to the EMS family in Washington County. He became an integral part of the development of the Cadet Squad Program back in the early years at CRS.

He served CRS in many different roles and was part of the team that earned CRS its status as Emergency Care World Champions. He served as chief of operations of Co. 28 of Washington County Civil Defense (now Washington County Special Operations) and was an EMS instructor with the University of Maryland, the Maryland Fire and Rescue Institute and the Maryland department of natural resources, as well as adjunct faculty coordinator of the Paramedic Emergency Services Program at Hagerstown Community College for the last 10 years.

During his career in emergency services, Rinker was responsible for training most of the EMS personnel operating in and around Washington County. He not only published in scientific literature through his work at NIAID, but also was the author of two chapters in a textbook used by EMS students. If you were an EMT or paramedic in Western Maryland, you came in contact with Rinker at some point during your training. Whether in the field, classroom or during an exam, Rinker was always present, serving as one of the last unpaid volunteer paramedics in Washington County.

He is survived by his wife of 23 years, Linda J. Rinker, and his stepmother, Katherine Rinker of Chambersburg, PA.—

NIAMS Remembers White

Jenea Latrell White

Jenea Latrell White, 34, a junior administrative officer in the Administrative Management Branch of NIAMS’s Office of the Director, passed away suddenly on Oct. 11.

“Jenea was the epitome of an upbeat, positive, bright and friendly person,” said NIAMS director Dr. Stephen Katz. “She was considered an important part of the NIAMS family and will be greatly missed.”

Despite a lifelong physical disability, White lived a full life without allowing her limitations to hold her back, never complaining and always encouraging everyone around her. She often said she did not want to be treated differently than anyone else and operated with a high level of professionalism.

White graduated from Bowie State University in 2002 with a B.S. degree in psychology. The Stay-in-School Program brought her to NIH to work in the NIAMS Extramural Research Program and to assist with the NIAMS Advisory Council. After a brief stint at NCI, she found her way back to NIAMS in 2005 to work in the Office of the Director. She stood out for her ability to juggle multiple tasks while providing exemplary customer service.

“Jenea did everything with excellence,” said her NIAMS supervisor, Valerie Green, AMB chief. “She wanted to do it all and did it with a smile.”

White also was active outside the institute and worked tirelessly on the NIH Diversity Council, becoming well known by many employees. “It was an honor to be around her,” Green said. “She touched so many people at NIH.”  

During her youth, White participated in the Special Olympics U.S.A. National Games. Her love of sports turned her into a big fan of the Washington Mystics.

White’s ability to remain joyful and focused on helping others gained her great respect from colleagues. She is survived by her mother Jessie P. White, sisters Kisha White and Angela Jernigan, grandfather Allen Perry and a host of other relatives.

Harting, NICHD’s Second Director, Dies

Dr. Donald Harting

Dr. Donald Harting, who served as NICHD director from 1965 to 1966, died of a heart attack recently at age 88. At a ceremony marking the founding of the institute’s Hall of Honor, Harting explained that he was responsible for implementing the plans for the institute that were developed by its first director, Dr. Robert Aldrich.

Harting had previously served as NICHD’s assistant director and acting director. He also served as health officer for Worcester County, Maryland. He is perhaps best known, however, for founding the Delmarva Education Foundation, which seeks to improve educational opportunities for residents of the Delmarva Peninsula.

“When he was director for NICHD, he became particularly aware of the role education played in human development,” his daughter, Katherine Harting, said in an article in DelmarvaNow. “He saw the education levels of residents in this area and income levels and made a connection. He said, ‘People helped me go to school and that made a huge difference.’ He was giving back.”

NICHD’s Beloved Messenger Passes Away

At his retirement from federal service in 2003, NICHD staff presented Steve Parris with this illustration commemorating his service. A framed print hangs in the NICHD copy room.
At his retirement from federal service in 2002, NICHD staff presented Steve Parris with this illustration commemorating his service. A framed print hangs in the NICHD copy room.

Steven M. Parris, perhaps the most steadfast, dependable public servant ever to walk the corridors of the National Institutes of Health, has passed away from natural causes.

A resident of Gaithersburg, he began his federal service in 1965, as a messenger at the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development. His tenure spanned several NIH directorships and numerous changes in administration. Through wind and rain, ice and snow, Parris always reported to work on time, seldom took a day off and always made sure his packages and letters arrived at their intended destinations.

“Steve was highly regarded throughout NIH,” said NICHD director Dr. Alan Guttmacher. “His perseverance and unassuming dedication inspired everyone to do their best.”

For the most part, Parris was a private person focused on his work, recounted his colleague, George Gaines, chief of NICHD’s Office of Program and Public Liaison. He had a keen interest in finance and investment, often informing his coworkers on developments in the stock market. During his infrequent days off, he would visit his parents at their home on the Chesapeake Bay, where he enjoyed boating and fishing with family and friends.

He retired from NICHD in July 2002. After vacationing briefly on the Chesapeake Bay, he returned to NICHD in 2003 to resume his duties on a contract basis for 7 years. He left again in 2010 because of declining health.

“Everyone on our hallway looked forward to Steve and his daily visits,” Gaines said. “Steve set an example for all of us and we will miss him.”

He is survived by his parents, Jim and Bernice Parris; two brothers and a sister, and several nieces and nephews. Contributions may be made in his name to Twinbrook Baptist Church, 1001 Twinbrook Pkwy., Rockville, MD 20851, or to Autism Speaks, www.autismspeaks.org.

There will be a celebration of Parris’s life and long NIH career, followed by a reception, on Tuesday, Mar. 8 at 11:30 a.m. in Lipsett Amphitheater, Bldg. 10.

Hamlet Joins Staff at NIGMS Dr. Michelle R.J. Hamlet
Dr. Michelle R.J. Hamlet recently joined NIGMS as a program director in the Division of Minority Opportunities in Research, where she will be involved in administering the Bridges to the Future programs. Before joining NIGMS, Hamlet served as the first training program coordinator in the NHGRI Intramural Training Office. She earned a B.S. in language arts/French from Georgetown University and a Ph.D. in cell and developmental biology from Harvard University. Hamlet completed a postdoctoral fellowship at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis.

NINDS Lab Wins Regional 2010 Technology Transfer Award

NINDS investigator Dr. Zhengping Zhuang (l), NCI/NINDS tech transfer specialist Dr. Martha Lubet and Lixte president Dr. John Kovach celebrate a tech transfer award.
NINDS investigator Dr. Zhengping Zhuang (l), NCI/NINDS tech transfer specialist Dr. Martha Lubet and Lixte president Dr. John Kovach celebrate a tech transfer award.

The molecular pathogenesis unit of the NINDS Surgical Neurology Branch recently won the 2010 Mid-Atlantic Region Award of Excellence in Technology Transfer. Sponsored by the Federal Laboratory Consortium (FLC), the award honors outstanding work in transferring federally developed technology to the marketplace. FLC is a nationwide network of federal laboratories dedicated to integrating research conducted in federal labs into the mainstream of the U.S. economy.

“This award recognizes the ability of federal research laboratories to work together with commercial companies to develop a novel therapeutic agent,” said Dr. Zhengping Zhuang, unit head. “It also shows that an NIH intramural laboratory, with the mission of developing new, innovative science into treatments, is most successful when teamed with a dedicated commercial partner.”

The winning project, “Identification and Development of Agents to Treat Glioblastoma and Other Over-exposing Nuclear Receptor CoRepressor (N-CoR),” is a joint NINDS venture with Dr. John Kovach, academic oncologist, research scientist and founder of Lixte Biotechnology Holdings, Inc. The goal of the project is to develop a drug that effectively will treat patients with glioblastoma and other cancers.

Glioblastoma is the most common and aggressive form of adult brain cancer. According to Zhuang, treatment for glioblastoma is challenging because the cancer is not as sensitive to many standard anti-cancer drugs as some of the more responsive types, such as lymphomas and leukemias. In addition, most drugs cannot enter the brain because they are blocked by the protective blood-brain barrier.

Zhuang and his colleagues discovered that several kinds of cancer, including glioblastomas, produce greater amounts of the protein N-CoR than their normal (non-cancerous) cell counterparts. The scientists showed that certain well-known biological compounds diminished expression of N-CoR in cell lines of these cancers. N-CoR controls cell growth and maturation by regulating the activity of several genes.

Zhuang discussed this discovery with Kovach shortly before Kovach decided to start a new biotechnology company, Lixte, to look for biomarkers characteristic of specific types of human cancer as clues for developing new diagnostic tests and as molecular targets for new cancer drug discovery.

After the company was founded, the NINDS Technology Transfer Office worked with Zhuang, his branch chief Dr. Russell Lonser and Lixte in developing a cooperative research and development agreement to identify agents that target the N-CoR pathway. CRADAs allow federal agencies to collaborate with outside organizations to commercialize new technology, thereby making it available to the public.

Lixte developed a series of novel compounds expected to influence N-CoR based on Zhuang’s observations. The compounds were screened for anti-cancer activity. Several of them were shown to inhibit human tumor cells growing in cell culture. Two of them—called LB-100 and LB-102—proved effective in inhibiting growth of human glioblastoma cells in a mouse model. Subsequent studies indicated that both compounds are more effective when used in combination with other, standard cancer chemotherapies.

Dr. Martha Lubet of the NCI Competitive Service Center represented the NINDS Technology Transfer Office in administration of the CRADA. Licensing of the technology was handled by Mojdeh Bahar and Dr. Surekha Vathyam of the NIH Office of Technology Transfer.


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