Dr. Judah Leon “Lee” Rosner, a senior investigator in the molecular genetics section of NIDDK’s Laboratory of Molecular Biology, concluded a 50-year NIH career on Apr. 29 with an afternoon-long scientific seminar in Wilson Hall that featured his many collaborations and the breadth of his involvement with the NIH community.
Rosner was a Ph.D. student at Yale University, after having studied zoology as an undergraduate at Columbia College, when he was recruited to NIH in 1965 by Dr. Michael Yarmolinsky of the Laboratory of Molecular Biology (LMB). Two years later, he had earned his Yale degree and was well along in establishing the hallmarks of his NIH tenure—science, friendship, humor, service and social engagement.
Rosner, who will continue his work in Bldg. 5 as a special volunteer, is an all-access NIH’er. He wrote papers in his specialty of bacterial genetics with colleagues all over the world; he traveled extensively to recruit minorities to science careers at NIH; he helped lead an NIH committee that protested the Vietnam War (and invited prominent anti-war spokesman Dr. Benjamin Spock to speak at NIH); he gave his 100th blood donation at NIH in 1992, is now up to his 220th donation and still gives regularly; he supported NIH R&W activities generously, including long stints as a softball player in both the men’s league (Heartbreakers) and coed league (Cloneheads).
And he was a loyal member of the Lambda Lunch, perhaps NIH’s longest-running debate society/journal club. His retirement seminar included hallmarks of the LL—high-minded intellectual battle on the topic of “struggles for the soul of biology.”
Rosner, who studied lambda phage in E. coli, even drove a car with license plates that read “Eco Lee.”
NIDDK scientist emeritus Dr. Bob Martin said he and Rosner were “NIH’s odd couple.” They did science by day—publishing some 30 papers together—but also took bagel-making classes and learned Italian, among other adventures. “Lee trained as many people of color as the rest of NIH combined,” said Martin, adding that in the 1970s and 1980s, Rosner was one of few NIH’ers recruiting talent to NIH from historically black colleges and universities.
Martin encountered in Rosner a person “not satisfied until every nuance [of an intellectual argument] was analyzed from every angle…He is still brimming with scientific ideas and criticisms.” Lately, said Martin, Rosner has been advocating for first-aid courses to be taught in public schools.
Dr. Michael Gottesman, NIH deputy director for intramural research, was a member of LMB from 1971 to 1974, and recalls that “Lee was the leader of the welcome wagon there.” The two published a paper in PNAS in 1975 describing the new transposon, Tn9. “I’m grateful to Lee for introducing me to the field [of antibiotic resistance].”
“Lee was one of the people in Bldg. 2 who made us feel at home,” said Gottesman’s wife, Dr. Susan Gottesman, who is co-chief of NCI’s LMB. As she and other scientists worked to unravel the complex set of transcriptional regulators that drive drug efflux pumps, “we knew that Lee was there to fall back on when we didn’t know what to do.”
Yarmolinsky, now an NCI scientist emeritus, credited Rosner with upholding standards of integrity in science, especially in an article Rosner published in Nature on May 10, 1990—“Reflections of science as a product.”
Rosner had examined the titles of papers in biology and chemistry from 1500 to 1989, discovering that, in about 1970, a pernicious trend began: AST, or assertive sentence titles. Science was becoming a product, not a process, he argued.
The habit of putting the conclusion in the title is “a perversion of the process” of science, argued Yarmolinsky. “It suggests that the story is told, not just well-begun…Impact is not to be confused with importance,” he said, decrying the rise of “impactitis.”
“I’m really overwhelmed,” said Rosner, at the seminar’s conclusion. He called himself a product of LMB and the Lambda Lunch. “Those two places taught me to cooperate, be friendly, share and struggle for the truth…It really does take a village” to produce a good scientist, he concluded. “I was surrounded by great scientists, great human beings and great friends.”
Dr. Robert Nussenblatt, chief of the Laboratory of Immunology at the National Eye Institute, died of cancer on Apr. 17 at age 67. He came to NIH in 1977 and proved to be a tireless scientist, research leader, mentor, clinician and patient advocate.
Nussenblatt was a world-renowned expert on inflammatory diseases affecting the eye, including uveitis. He literally wrote the book on the subject—Uveitis: Fundamentals and Clinical Practice—now in its fourth edition. He authored several other books and more than 600 articles in scientific journals.
Many patients with ocular inflammatory disease endure long-term treatment with medications that have unwanted and sometimes intolerable side effects. Nussenblatt dedicated his career to understanding the mechanisms of uveitis and improving treatment. One of his major accomplishments was demonstrating that cyclosporine was effective as a steroid-sparing agent, which has since become the standard of care for non-infectious uveitis. He also led research to test the biologic agent daclizumab as a treatment for uveitis and helped pave the way for its use in treating some types of multiple sclerosis.
His leadership roles at NIH included clinical director and scientific director of NEI. He was also a senior advisor to the deputy director of the NIH Intramural Research Program, associate director (clinical director) of the NIH Center for Human Immunology and acting scientific director of the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine from 2004 to 2012. Nussenblatt pursued team science at an international scale. He led the UNITE consortium, which partners NEI with sites in the United Kingdom, South China and Hong Kong in the study of ocular inflammatory diseases. He had honorary degrees from around the world.
Nussenblatt’s commitment to his patients was remarkable. He always put patients first, never hesitating to drop everything to tend to their needs. He routinely exceeded the expectations of patients and families. He always made time to talk and had an uncanny ability to remember almost anyone he met, even acquaintances he had not seen for decades.
By training other clinicians, Nussenblatt influenced patient care worldwide. Over the span of his 39 years at NIH, he mentored more than 67 fellows who are now practicing around the globe. He received the American Academy of Ophthalmology’s Life Achievement Honor Award in 2011. Additionally, he had spoken at more than 66 invited lectureships around the world. He was recently nominated to become a distinguished NIH investigator.
Dr. Laurence P. Clarke, chief of the Image Technology Development Branch in NCI’s Cancer Imaging Program, died Apr. 16 in Florida from acute myeloid leukemia. He was a leader in medical imaging technology and championed bringing quantitative imaging into clinical trials.
Clarke’s career spanned nearly 40 years, two continents and both academic and government service. He earned his Ph.D. in medical physics at National University of Ireland in 1978, then crossed the Atlantic to begin a career in academia, contributing to student advancement at the University of South Florida and H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center, as well as at the University of Miami, and more recently as an adjunct professor at George Washington University. In 1999, Clarke left academia to enter government service at NCI. He continued to mentor many associates and scientists through the avenues of clinical imaging technologies during his government career.
One of his visions was development of large public databases such as the Lung Imaging Database Consortium and Reference Image Database for Evaluation of Response. These have been valuable for benchmarking quantitative imaging tools for measuring response to therapy. This led to creation of the Quantitative Imaging Network in 2008, in which imaging scientists and oncologists from universities across the country participate in the development of tools and methods to extract reliable quantitative information from medical images in order to predict or measure patients’ response to cancer therapies.
Clarke was a long-standing fellow of the American Association of Physicists in Medicine and a recently inducted fellow in SPIE, the international society for optics and photonics. In addition, the American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering inducted him into its college of fellows for outstanding contributions to the advancement of biomedical imaging, especially in the realm of cancer diagnosis and treatment.
Clarke is survived by his wife, Alice; daughters Allisun and Laura; sons-in-law Edward Sfeir and Edward Jose and four grandchildren.