Dr. Jules L. Dienstag, dean for medical education and Carl W. Walter professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School, will deliver the 2013 Robert M. Chanock Memorial Lecture. His talk, “Hepatitis C: From Abstraction to Cure,” will be held on Tuesday, Mar. 26 at 9 a.m. in the first floor conference room of Bldg. 50.
Dienstag was a research associate in NIAID’s Laboratory of Infectious Diseases (LID) from 1974 to 1976 before joining Harvard in 1976. He has devoted his career to improving the understanding, prevention and management of viral hepatitis.
He participated in early studies to define the virology and epidemiology of hepatitis A and hepatitis C viruses. His studies on hepatitis B virus encompassed immunology, epidemiology and vaccine and therapeutic development, including clinical trials of lamivudine, the first direct-acting antiviral drug to be approved by the Food and Drug Administration for the treatment of chronic hepatitis B infection. Between 1998 and 2010, he was principal investigator at the Massachusetts General Hospital site for a national clinical trial of maintenance antiviral therapy for chronic hepatitis C in people who had not responded to standard treatment.
Dienstag will discuss the history of hepatitis C research and the promise of new treatments for the disease. Research during the 1960s and 1970s led to the identification of hepatitis A and B viruses, but another unidentified virus still accounted for a substantial proportion of hepatitis disease. For many years, this other virus was called “non-A, non-B hepatitis.” Not until 1988 was hepatitis C virus identified and characterized. Today, antiviral therapy is effective against hepatitis C, successfully curing more than three-quarters of patients. According to Dienstag, the dozens of next-generation antivirals currently in clinical development may achieve even higher cure rates.
The lecture honors Chanock, who served as chief of LID for more than three decades. His work helped establish a legacy of excellence in virology research at NIAID; he trained a generation of leaders in virology and academic medicine.