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Vol. LXVII, No. 14
July 3, 2015

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Dr. Chi-Chao Chan

Dr. Michael Rogers

Dr. Charles O’Brien

Adrienne A. Hallett

James King

Dr. David Sibley


Milestones

NEI’s Chan Retires After 33 Years of Eye-Opening Research

Dr. Chi-Chao Chan retired from NEI at the end of May after 33 years with the institute. She will continue as scientist emeritus.

Dr. Chi-Chao Chan retired from NEI at the end of May after 33 years with the institute. She will continue as scientist emeritus.

An internationally renowned expert on eye disease pathology and diagnosis, Dr. Chi-Chao Chan retired from NEI at the end of May after 33 years with the institute. She had served as chief of the institute’s immunopathology section since 1992 and as chief of the NEI histopathology core since 1999.

Over the course of her career, Chan contributed to our understanding of several eye diseases. Her research led to novel ways of diagnosing primary vitreoretinal lymphoma (PVRL), a rare and often fatal malignancy of the eye.

Diagnosing PVRL is tricky. Misdiagnosis is common because PVRL mimics other eye diseases such as chronic uveitis, an inflammatory eye disease that requires entirely different treatment. Historically, the diagnosis of PVRL was made primarily based on cellular changes seen in tissue specimens. Chan’s team discovered that certain changes at the protein and molecular level could be used to help diagnose PVRL earlier, enabling patients to start chemotherapy sooner.

In addition to PVRL, Chan’s work has led to new insights about the pathology of uveitis and von Hippel-Lindau disease and advanced our understanding of the genetics and pathogenesis of age-related macular degeneration, a blinding disease prevalent among older individuals.

Chan’s histopathology lab bustles with activity, fielding hundreds of requests each year from physicians around the world seeking help to diagnose mysterious eye diseases. A coauthor on more than 600 publications, Chan credits that hefty number of papers to her lab’s natural ability to collaborate with numerous researchers across NIH and the world.

The trust Chan built with surgical teams at the Clinical Center formed a “marriage made in heaven,” says Dr. Liliana Guedez, an NCI scientist who works in Chan’s immunopathology section. Often, the lab knows about surgeries at the Clinical Center well in advance and is ready to receive tissue specimens delivered personally by the surgeon, Guedez noted. “That degree of immediacy of getting a specimen to pathology doesn’t happen elsewhere.”

Chan completed her medical degree at what is now Sun Yat-sen University in China just as the country was falling under the influence of the Cultural Revolution. She came to the United States via Hong Kong and re-started her life and career from scratch. First learning English at Boston University and taking undergraduate courses at Kent State University in Ohio and Johns Hopkins University, she then earned a second medical degree from Hopkins.

“When I came to the U.S. in 1968,” she said, “China had no diplomatic relations with the U.S. and was not a member of [the World Health Organization]. Therefore, my medical education in China was not recognized here. Today, a person who holds a medical degree from China can take an exam to qualify to practice in the U.S.”

After a residency in ophthalmology at Stanford and a postdoctoral fellowship at Hopkins’ Wilmer Ophthalmological Institute, she joined NEI in 1982 for a second postdoctoral fellowship in clinical ocular immunology/uveitis in the laboratory of Dr. Robert Nussenblatt.

Throughout her career at NEI, Chan has maintained strong ties to the vision research community in China where her parents, the late Drs. Winifred Mao and Eugene Chan, were pioneers of modern ophthalmology in China.

“Dr. Chan’s storied medical career from China to the NEI has been remarkable,” said NEI director Dr. Paul Sieving. “Her experienced hands in eye disease pathology have been essential in the diagnosis of many challenging cases of ocular tumors and inflammatory diseases. At the same time, her deep commitment to mentoring young trainees has inspired and empowered several generations of budding ophthalmologists and physician-scientists.”

Her numerous recognitions include the American Academy of Ophthalmology’s Senior Achievement Award in 2013, a Gold Fellow appointment from the Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology in 2011 and the Chinese Ophthalmology Society’s Outstanding Achievement Award in Ophthalmology and Visual Science for Overseas Chinese in 2010.

Chan said she is most proud of the dozens of fellows and postbaccalaureate trainees that she has mentored. Her face lights up as she ticks off all the names of her postbacs and where they’ve earned medical degrees and doctorates since leaving her lab.

She plans to relocate to San Francisco, where her son and first grandchild live, and to write a book on animal models for a variety of eye diseases.

NIGMS Division Director Rogers Retires
By Alisa Zapp Machalek

Dr. Michael Rogers (l) once served a 6-month detail
on a committee chaired by Sen. Ted Kennedy.

Dr. Michael Rogers (l) once served a 6-month detail
on a committee chaired by Sen. Ted Kennedy.

“You can always appreciate working for an organization with such a noble purpose—you can always feel good about working at NIH,” says Dr. Michael Rogers, who retired on May 1 after nearly 38 years at NIH.

For the past 22 years, Rogers has led the NIGMS Division of Pharmacology, Physiology and Biological Chemistry. With an annual budget of over $400 million, this wide-ranging division supports more than 1,000 research grants in areas as diverse as basic enzymology and anesthesiology.

Under Rogers’ direction, the division launched the NIH Pharmacogenomics Research Network, supported NIGMS’s first large-scale clinical trial and developed a Chemical Methodologies and Library Development initiative.

“Mike is a true scholar—smart, curious and thoughtful,” said NIGMS director Dr. Jon Lorsch. “With his leadership, NIGMS was able to open new fields of inquiry and break through many scientific barriers. We will truly miss him.”

Rogers spearheaded creation of the NIGMS chemistry-biology interface predoctoral training program, which has grown steadily in size over the past 10 years. He also coordinated the NIGMS “glue grant” program, an initiative designed to encourage formation of large, multidisciplinary collaborations to help answer major biomedical questions such as how cells communicate, how the body responds to traumatic injury and the roles of carbohydrates (glycans) in health and disease.

More recently, Rogers helped cultivate the emerging discipline of quantitative and systems pharmacology (QSP), which combines computational and experimental approaches to developing and finding new uses for medications. Like pharmacogenomics, QSP is a component of precision medicine that aims to tailor treatments for individual patients.

Over the past year and a half, he has also played instrumental roles in NIGMS activities related to enhancing data reproducibility, including a program to develop training modules.

Rogers says that when he first came to NIGMS, he expected to stay only a few years. Instead, “I never felt the need to leave because there was always something new and interesting coming along.”

A medicinal chemist by training, Rogers says he felt especially comfortable at NIGMS because, “even back then, NIGMS supported more chemistry than any other part of NIH.”

Rogers spent most of the 1980s in what is now CSR, where the first drafts of his summary statements included text from a typewriter pieced together with scissors, tape and handwriting. Before that, he was an assistant professor in the department of pharmaceutical chemistry at Virginia Commonwealth University.

He hasn’t yet decided how he’ll stay involved in science once he retires, but he knows he’ll miss having immediate online access to newly published journal articles and reading grantee progress reports. “It’s like reading the next chapter in a story in an ongoing saga,” he says. “I love the science.”

Rogers also has a new passion—opera.

“I grew up in the South, so naturally I was a country music fan,” he says. He enjoyed pop music, too, until he got bored of it 4 or 5 years ago. That’s when he started listening to opera. To his surprise, he got hooked.

“Since that time, 80 percent of my listening is opera,” he says. “It’s so much more interesting than anything else out there.”

Among the things Rogers says he’s looking forward to are spending more time with his family, having unscheduled days and waking up without an alarm clock.

NIDA’s O’Brien Wins 2015 Lifetime Science Award

Dr. Charles O’Brien receives the 2015
Lifetime Science Award from NIDA
director Dr. Nora Volkow.

Dr. Charles O’Brien receives the 2015
Lifetime Science Award from NIDA
director Dr. Nora Volkow.

NIDA’s 2015 Lifetime Science Award was presented May 5 to longtime grantee Dr. Charles O’Brien in recognition of his outstanding contributions to the field of drug abuse and addiction research. He was recognized for his pioneering research on the biological basis of addiction and new medications that have improved addiction treatment.

He began his work in the 1970s in the U.S. Navy, when he noticed that Vietnam War veterans were coming home addicted to heroin. He wanted to address the problem. O’Brien helped establish one of the first U.S. methadone clinics and co-founded the Addiction Severity Index. He also led the team that first tested use of the opioid antagonist naltrexone in the treatment of alcohol addiction.

Today, O’Brien is vice chair of psychiatry at the University of Pennsylvania and director of the Center for Studies in Addiction. His research focuses on opiate drugs and alcohol, as well as cannabis, cocaine, nicotine and treatment for populations who confront particular obstacles to recovery—including inmates, recent parolees and veterans who experience addiction and post-traumatic stress disorder.

Hallett Heads Legislative Policy Office

Adrienne A. Hallett

Adrienne A. Hallett joined NIH on May 4 as NIH associate director for legislative policy and analysis and director of the Office of Legislative Policy and Analysis (OLPA).

She comes to NIH with 14 years of experience on the staff of the U.S. Senate committee on appropriations, where she served most recently as senior policy advisor. During her tenure, she worked with Sen. Tom Harkin to conceptualize, draft and promote the Accelerating Biomedical Research Act. She was charged with conducting government-wide oversight of the Ebola and other infectious diseases initiative enacted in 2014, and advised Sen. Barbara Mikulski on biomedical research and health care across the government. Additionally, as staff director of the subcommittee on Labor, Health & Human Services, Hallett managed the staff responsible for negotiating the budgets of three cabinet agencies and 14 related agencies, boards and commissions. She helped prioritize funding for NIH in a flat budget and crafted and successfully negotiated an Ebola supplemental for HHS. In addition, she has worked closely with NIH senior leadership on a number of high-impact science policy issues.

“Adrienne brings a wealth of resources to the position, including broad contacts across all branches of government and in the private sector, skill in strategic management and negotiation and complex policy development experience,” said NIH director Dr. Francis Collins, who made the appointment. “I am confident that she has the perfect combination of talents needed to successfully lead this critical NIH function.”

He thanked Lauren Higgins, OLPA acting director, for her outstanding leadership of OLPA since July 2014. She will continue as OLPA deputy director.

King Named Federal Librarian of the Year

James King

James King has been named 2014 Federal Librarian of the Year by the Federal Library and Information Network. The award recognizes federal libraries, librarians and library technicians throughout the United States and abroad for their innovative ways in delivery of information within the federal government.

King is an NIH Library branch chief and information architect. He was recognized for his unique ability to blend technology with librarianship to lead and implement information solutions at NIH.

King heads the library’s custom information solutions team. The informationist service provides the library with deeper insight into the changing needs of its customers than can be obtained by normal survey instruments or focus groups.

King was also recently selected for Catholic University’s Von Dran Memorial Award, which recognizes collaboration, innovation and leadership.

NINDS’s Sibley Elected ASPET President

Dr. David Sibley

Dr. David Sibley, chief of the NINDS molecular neuropharmacology section, was recently elected president of the American Society of Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics (ASPET). He began as president-elect on July 1.

ASPET is an international scientific society of 5,000 members who conduct basic and clinical pharmacology research to help develop new medicines and therapies to fight existing and emerging diseases. The society—founded in 1908 and located in Bethesda—was created to help promote pharmacological research. Its members work in a variety of different fields including academia, government, pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies and nonprofit organizations.

Sibley, an ASPET member since 1985, joined the NINDS Division of Intramural Research in 1987 and was appointed molecular neuropharmacology section chief in 1992. His laboratory’s long-term goal is to develop novel pharmacological therapies for treating neurological and psychiatric disorders associated with aberrant dopaminergic signaling.

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