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Vol. LXIII, No. 5
March 4, 2011

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Morrison-Bogorad Retires from NIA

Dr. Marcelle Morrison-Bogorad

Dr. Marcelle Morrison-Bogorad was a 15-year-old schoolgirl in her native Scotland when a science teacher encouraged her to pursue her budding passion for science. “She said the brain was the thing to study, that it was something magical,” Morrison-Bogorad said.

Taking that early guidance to heart, she devoted much of her scientific career to unraveling the mysteries of the aging brain and age-related neurodegenerative diseases. Now, after 14 years as director of the NIA Division of Neuroscience, Morrison-Bogorad is retiring.

With an honors degree in biochemistry from Aberdeen University and a Ph.D. in biochemistry from Glasgow University in Scotland, she began her professional career in 1971 as one of the first researchers to isolate and study the properties of globin messenger RNAs in red blood cells. In the early 1980s, while working as a researcher and faculty member in the neurology department at the University of Texas Health Science Center in Dallas, a chance encounter at an Alzheimer’s Association meeting changed her life.

“I was introduced to a man with Alzheimer’s and was struck by the fact that he was there—but not there,” she said. “It made me want to find out what went wrong in his brain.”

Since 1997, she has directed NIA’s Alzheimer’s disease research infrastructure network and extramural funding of Alzheimer’s and normal cognitive aging research programs.

“Marcelle has been an outstanding leader in the fields of Alzheimer’s disease and normal brain and cognitive aging research,” said NIA director Dr. Richard Hodes. “Her tremendous drive, scientific curiosity and fierce attention to detail brought out the best in her staff and the many researchers and clinicians who looked to her for guidance and support. She has led the way to new insights about Alzheimer’s that show promise for development of new and effective interventions. ”

Morrison-Bogorad said the world of Alzheimer’s and cognitive aging research has greatly evolved over the past decade, in part due to advances in technology and important new ways of thinking about data sharing. “The science has become more complicated and disciplines are both more specialized and intertwined,” she said.

She encouraged the sharing and leveraging of resources—whether they were scientific expertise, funding, specimens or data. One example is the Alzheimer’s Disease Neuroimaging Initiative (ADNI), a groundbreaking public-private effort to identify and track Alzheimer’s pathology even before symptoms such as memory loss are evident. Led by NIA, ADNI brings together academia, the pharmaceutical and imaging industries and private foundations and organizations through the Foundation for NIH.

“Now more than ever we need openness and collaboration among scientists in order to advance basic, translational and clinical research,” she said.

Morrison-Bogorad plans to move to Costa Rica where she and her husband, Alex, are building a mountaintop home.

NCI’s Schatzkin Mourned

Dr. Arthur Schatzkin

Dr. Arthur Schatzkin, an internationally renowned pioneer in the field of nutrition and cancer, died Jan. 20 of brain cancer at age 62. He came to NCI in 1984, and since 1999 served as chief of the Nutritional Epidemiology Branch in the Division of Cancer Epidemiology and Genetics.

Schatzkin was committed to understanding the role of nutrition in cancer etiology and prevention. Early in his career, he was the first to describe an association between moderate alcohol intake and breast cancer risk. He then turned his attention to the role of diet in preventing colorectal cancer. He led the NCI Polyp Prevention Trial, a 4-year randomized study that successfully achieved a low-fat, high-fiber diet and then showed that this intervention, contrary to the prevailing hypothesis, had no effect on adenoma recurrence.

Schatzkin addressed major issues in nutritional epidemiology, including two methodologic limitations: the limited range of reported dietary intake in cohort studies and the measurement error associated with self-reporteddietary assessment. To address the first issue, he conceived and launched the NIH-AARP Diet and Health Study, at the time the largest-ever prospective cohort study. Research from this long-term investigation of approximately 500,000 men and women has produced more than 100 original scientific papers and is a prized resource for a multitude of investigators worldwide.

To address the complex issue of dietary measurement error, Schatzkin played a key role in the Observing Protein and Energy Nutrition biomarker study. He also supported the development of new web-based methods to measure diet, physical activity and energy balance. He published over 300 original research articles. In 2007, he participated on an international expert panel convened by the World Cancer Research Fund and the American Institute for Cancer Research to report on current evidence regarding food, nutrition, physical activity and cancer.

Throughout his career, Schatzkin was dedicated to the advancement of nutritional epidemiology and the mentoring of young scientists. He built a training ground for the next generation of nutritional epidemiologists. During his 11 years as branch chief, the NEB grew from two investigators to a team of over 20 scientists. His leadership and enthusiasm inspired a passion in trainees and senior scientists alike.

Schatzkin is survived by his wife, Dr. Tamara Harris Schatzkin, chief of the geriatric epidemiology section, National Institute on Aging, and their children, Rebecca and Eric.

Longtime NIDDK Researcher Witkop Dies

Dr. Bernhard Witkop died on Nov. 22 at age 93 at his home in Chevy Chase. The renowned organic chemist served at NIH for more than 40 years.

During those years, Witkop—along with his recruit, the late Dr. John Daly, and others—discovered the “NIH-shift,” a term describing the movement of hydrogen, deuterium or tritium to adjacent carbons on aromatic rings during oxidation, a process key in developing many therapies. Witkop also helped to develop selective methods for the non-enzymatic cleavage of proteins, which enabled the sequencing of amino acids in proteins as large as immunoglobulin. This method was later used in the production of human insulin.

Witkop also helped pioneer the NIH Visiting Fellow Program. Among other foreign scientists, he began attracting visiting researchers to the program from Japan as early as 1955. He traveled frequently to Japan, where he gave talks in classical Japanese. In 1975, Witkop received an Order of the Sacred Treasure, bestowed by the emperor of Japan.

“He brought in the first visiting fellow from Japan at a time when we were still in the shadow of World War II,” said Dr. Kenneth Jacobson, chief of NIDDK’s Laboratory of Bioorganic Chemistry. “He broke the ice.”

Dr. Bernhard Witkop (l), then-head of the NIDDK Laboratory of Chemistry, discusses research with Dr. John Daly (c) of NIDDK and Dr. Takashi Tokuyama, an NIDDK visiting scientist from Japan, on the NIH campus in the late 1960s.

Other honors, among many, included election to the National Academy of Sciences and the American Philosophical Society.

Even long after most lights at NIH darkened, Witkop might still be found working in his lab. Thomas Witkop remembers going to visit his father at his West Virginia cabin one evening and finding all signs that his father was present, except his father. “At approximately 4 a.m., he came rolling back up to the cabin. Apparently, he was at the cabin, had some big idea and drove to the lab at NIH in the middle of the night, did whatever he needed to do and then came back.”

Witkop served as head of the NIDDK Laboratory of Chemistry for 30 years. He was appointed an NIH institute scholar in 1987 and a scholar emeritus in 1993.

Witkop’s early career coincided with World War II. A German native and Jewish on his mother’s side, he gave much of the credit for his shelter from the Nazis to his mentor at the University of Munich, the Nobel Prize-winner Heinrich Wieland.

After a few years at Harvard University, Witkop came to NIH as a fellow in the Public Health Service in 1950. Thomas Witkop said his father’s NIH service was a high point of his life.

In addition to his son, Witkop is survived by his wife of 65 years, Marlene Prinz Witkop; daughters Cornelia Hess and Phyllis Kasper; a sister; and seven grandchildren.

NIAID’s Kapikian To Receive Hilleman/Merck Award

Dr. Albert Z. Kapikian

Dr. Albert Z. Kapikian will receive the 2011 Maurice Hilleman/Merck Award on May 22 at the 111th general meeting of the American Society for Microbiology. Kapikian is chief of the epidemiology section of the Laboratory of Infectious Diseases, NIAID, a position he has held since 1967.

Known as “the father of human gastroenteritis virus research,” Kapikian and his colleagues discovered the Norwalk virus in 1972. This was one of the first viruses to be associated with acute epidemic gastroenteritis in humans. A year later, Kapikian and fellow NIAID scientists Dr. Stephen Feinstone and Dr. Robert Purcell first identified the virus that causes hepatitis A. In 1974, while conducting studies in infants and young children hospitalized with diarrhea, Kapikian and his colleagues detected and visualized human rotavirus. This was the first reported detection in the United States of the virus, which had been discovered in Australia a year earlier.

Rotaviruses have emerged as the leading cause of severe diarrhea in infants and young children worldwide. Each year, they account for approximately 500,000 deaths, mostly among children under the age of 5 in developing countries. Kapikian led a nearly 25-year effort to develop a rotavirus vaccine. He and his research group defined the mode of transmission of rotavirus, identified the viral proteins critical for triggering an immune response and formulated a vaccine aimed at protecting against several important rotavirus strains. Their efforts, in partnership with Wyeth-Ayerst Laboratories, led to the development, testing and FDA approval in 1998 of the first rotavirus vaccine. Kapikian’s work has led to second-generation rotavirus vaccines and ongoing efforts to improve rotavirus vaccines and expand their use in the developing world.

ASM’s Maurice Hilleman/Merck Award recognizes major contributions to vaccine discovery, vaccine development and/or control of vaccine-preventable diseases. At the meeting, Kapikian will deliver a lecture titled, “A Strategy for the Development and Implementation of an Affordable and Sustainable Multivalent Rotavirus Vaccine Designed for Developing Countries.”

American Medical Association Honors NHGRI’s Gahl

Dr. William Gahl, clinical director of the National Human Genome Research Institute, received the Dr. Nathan Davis Award for Outstanding Government Service on Feb. 9 for his work establishing the Undiagnosed Diseases Program, a trans-NIH initiative that aims to provide diagnoses to patients with mysterious medical conditions. Gahl accepted the American Medical Association’s highest award on behalf of the thousands of patients with rare and undiagnosed disorders.

“Many of my patients represent the medically underserved,” said Gahl, who received the award at the AMA National Advocacy Conference at the Grand Hyatt Washington Hotel in Washington, D.C. “They provide the ongoing assurance that compels me and my colleagues at the bedside, at the bench and in the NIH Undiagnosed Diseases Program to pursue this work with a passion for care and discovery.”

One of eight winners of the award, Gahl was recognized as a federal executive branch member in career public service and is the first honoree to represent NHGRI. Fourteen of the 25 past recipients in the same category have been leaders at NIH, including seven NIH center or institute directors.

Dr. William Gahl accepts the Dr. Nathan Davis Award from Dr. Ardis Dee Hoven of the AMA.

Photo: Ted Grudzinski/AMA

“As the founding director of the UDP, Dr. Gahl has brokered a unique combination of medical and scientific resources to make genetic discoveries and further the research of undiagnosed diseases,” NHGRI director Dr. Eric Green wrote in a nomination letter last fall. “Dr. Gahl has recruited the most contemporary genomic experts and technologies to the UDP, quickly demonstrating the role of detailed genomic studies in unraveling the genetic basis of mystery diseases. These efforts are establishing new paradigms for investigating and diagnosing rare genetic disorders.”

This year marks the 22nd anniversary of the Dr. Nathan Davis Awards, which were named for the 19th century physician and AMA founder.

Gahl studies rare inborn errors of metabolism, seeing patients in the clinic and conducting biochemical and biological investigations in the laboratory. He is an international expert in cystinosis, a multisystemic disease that causes kidney failure at a young age due to lysosomal storage of cystine; Hermansky-Pudlak syndrome, a disorder of albinism and bleeding due to improper formation of vesicles within cells; alkaptonuria, a devastating joint disease of adults; and disorders of free sialic acid metabolism. He has published more than 280 articles, reviews and book chapters. Currently, 25 of Gahl’s fellows are certified in clinical biochemical genetics. He has won previous awards from the National Organization for Rare Disorders and the Alliance of Genetics Support Groups for his service to the rare disease community.

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