By Lisa Brown

MED’s Corley Appointed NEIDL Director

September 23rd, 2014 in Uncategorized

Takes charge at critical moment in research into infectious diseases

One of Ronald Corley’s first tasks as NEIDL director will be to identify the top three areas to focus recruiting efforts on. Photo by Kalman Zabarsky

One of Ronald Corley’s first tasks as NEIDL director will be to identify the top three areas to focus recruiting efforts on. Photo by Kalman Zabarsky

Ronald Corley, whose five years as associate director of BU’s National Emerging Infectious Diseases Laboratories (NEIDL) saw the lab overcome several legal and political challenges, has been appointed NEIDL director, effective October 1. Corley will continue as a School of Medicine professor and chair of microbiology, but will no longer be Medical Campus associate provost for research.

Announcing Corley’s appointment in a message to the Boston University community, President Robert A. Brown describes the new director as “an outstanding scientist and a collaborative leader.”

Corley succeeds John R. Murphy, a MED professor of medicine and microbiology, who had been NEIDL interim director since 2011. Brown says he is grateful to Murphy, “who has been instrumental in bringing the laboratories through the arduous regulatory processes and the initial launch of operations.”

“Dr. Corley’s leadership and vision will allow the NEIDL to reach its potential of being one of the premier centers for research on emerging and deadly infectious diseases,” says Gloria S. Waters, vice president and associate provost for research. “His experience as the associate director over the past five years will ensure a smooth transition and has shown that he has the collaborative style necessary to run a center like this and strengthen this area of research excellence at BU.”

Corley takes the helm of NEIDL at a critical time, as the worst Ebola virus outbreak in history continues to sweep across Central Africa.

“With Ebola, you can’t diagnose somebody until they’re already symptomatic,” he says. “Think how beneficial it would be if you had a tool that could diagnose people earlier. That alone would be a game changer. It’s imperative for us to learn to understand these emerging viruses and also to develop the diagnostics, the therapeutics, and the vaccines. That’s what the NEIDL is about.”

Construction of the NEIDL, on the Medical Campus in Boston’s South End, was completed in 2008 at a cost of $200 million, with the majority of the funding—$141 million—provided by the National Institutes of Health. The 192,000-square-foot laboratory is part of a national network of secure facilities dedicated to the development of diagnostics, vaccines, and treatments to combat emerging and reemerging infectious diseases.

The NEIDL has faced opposition from community activists expressing concern over safety and security, worries heightened by recent breaches at the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), where scientists were accidentally exposed to potentially viable anthrax bacteria.

“The recent events at the CDC have done nothing to dampen people’s concerns,” says Corley. “Those were horrible events—they were outrageous. The first thing we do when events like that happen is review all our processes and ask, could that have happened here? And if the answer is no, we make sure everyone understands why. And if we need to change something, we change it.”

Corley says he is committed to open communication with the public regarding the lab’s operations, safety protocols, and research goals.

“One of the things that former director Jack Murphy has been adamant about—and I have absolute, full intention to continue—is to be as open, direct, and transparent with the community as possible,” Corley says. “We want to address any questions that come our way and meet with anyone who wants to meet with us. We will continue our public outreach, because communication with the public is absolutely critical.”

The lab has been approved for some Biosafety Level 3 (BSL-3) research and is currently working to secure the necessary permits and approvals for BSL-4 research from the Boston Public Health Commission and the CDC. Corley’s goal is to begin BSL-4 research in the NEIDL in 2015. He also plans to begin a significant recruitment campaign across a number of different disciplines.

“We already have a small but outstanding group of scientists here,” he says. “What we want to do is build critical mass in certain areas that will raise everybody’s game.”

One of his first tasks will be to identify the top three areas to focus recruiting efforts on. These areas are still under discussion, but zoonosis (the spread of infectious disease between species) and pathogenesis (the mechanism by which microbes cause disease) will certainly be top priorities at NEIDL, he says. Tuberculosis and other respiratory pathogens are also likely areas of focus.

“The advantage of having the NEIDL in an academic, research-intensive institution is that it gives us the ability to address broad questions about infectious diseases,” he says. “That means we are going to be recruiting people from a variety of disciplines: engineers, chemists, biologists, ecologists. Emerging infectious diseases are about humans encroaching on animal territories, and it’s about global warming and changes in habitats. We’re not just doing research on individual pathogens and how they function, but also trying to globally understand where these diseases come from and how we can model, predict, and prevent their spread to humans.”

Corley earned a BS in zoology and a PhD in microbiology and immunology from Duke University. He has been MED’s microbiology chair since 1994, a position he says taught him to work across disciplines and build broad collaborations between the Charles River and Medical Campuses.

“We want to be a premier emerging infectious diseases institute, not only in the United States, but in the world,” he says. “And I think we have the potential for doing exactly that.”

This BU Today article was written by Barbara Moran

NIDA Awards BUSM’s Samet $5 Million Grant

September 17th, 2014 in Uncategorized

Jeffrey Samet

Jeffrey Samet

BUSM researcher Dr. Jeffrey Samet and Dr. Carlos Del Rio from Emory University were recently awarded a five year, $5 million grant from the National Institute of Drug Abuse for their project titled: Improving Physician Opioid Prescribing for Chronic Pain in HIV-infected Persons.

Prescription opioids are the second most commonly abused substances in the U.S. (after marijuana), and overdose deaths related to prescription opioids now exceed deaths from motor vehicle crashes. Prescription opioid abuse appears to be even more common among HIV-infected patients, presumably a consequence of the known co-morbidity between HIV and substance use.

The grant will fund the “Targeting Effective Analgesia in Clinics for HIV” (TEACH) Study. TEACH will test the effectiveness of a collaborative care intervention to improve the management of chronic opioid therapy and reduce the misuse of prescription opioids among HIV-infected persons.

“This is a novel randomized controlled trial of a chronic disease management intervention to improve the delivery of chronic opioid therapy and reduce prescription opioid misuse among HIV-infected persons. If demonstrated to be effective, this model could be adopted by clinics nationwide, may improve physician satisfaction and confidence with this challenging aspect of patient care, and has the potential to improve the health and well-being of persons with HIV,” explained Samet, principal investigator of the grant.

The study will be conducted within the BMC HIV clinic (CID) with Dr. Meg Sullivan, as a co-investigator.

 

 

Online Program for Medical Educators Allows Digital Display of Earned Competency

September 16th, 2014 in Uncategorized

CME-Accredited Course Advances Teaching Skills of Health Care Professionals

Medical educators have an opportunity to participate in a new, first-of-its kind online medical education badge program at Boston University School of Medicine (BUSM). The BUSM+ Medical Education Badge Program (BUSM+Program) allows access to online faculty development in medical education and allows course graduates to display and share earned digital competency badges on social media, CVs and portfolio websites. The program is considered to be a form of digital micro-credentialing.

“The BUSM+ Program takes the concept of digital badging and applies it for an audience of health care providers (practicing and retired physicians, fellows, residents, medical students and healthcare teams) who may have missed educational courses in their professional career and are now teaching, or those healthcare providers who want to enhance their existing teaching skills,” explained Gail March, PhD, Assistant Professor of Medical Sciences & Education as well as Director of Instructional Design and Faculty Development at BUSM who founded the program.

According to March, the BUSM+ digital badge program is unique in that it is the first one for medical education faculty development. “There are faculty development programs available, but they are often very expensive and demand the health care provider leave their practice to attend. BUSM+ is available as an open (no application process), online, asynchronous program available 24/7 for a low cost,” she added.

This program is designed for practicing and retired health care professionals who educate other professionals, students and patients. Enrollees in the initial BUSM+Program course will review the fundamentals of teaching and learning. Three additional offerings are planned to follow the Teaching and Learning course including Curriculum Design, Academic Leadership and Medical Education Research.

BUSM+Program was funded earlier this year by an inaugural seed grant for online innovation from the Digital Learning Initiative at Boston University.

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Sept. 11 BUMC Sustainability Festival, Talbot Green

September 9th, 2014 in Uncategorized

festival

Two BUSM Students Named 2014 Benjamin H. Kean Travel Fellows in Tropical Medicine

September 8th, 2014 in Uncategorized

The American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene (ASTMH) announced the 2014 recipients of the Benjamin H. Kean Travel Fellowship in Tropical Medicine. Through a highly competitive process, 22 Fellows from 18 medical schools were selected including two from Boston University School of Medicine Katrina Ciraldo and Daniel Silva.

Katrina Ciraldo

Katrina Ciraldo

Daniel Silva

Daniel Silva

This Fellowship is the only medical student award dedicated to nurturing a career path for physician-scientists in tropical medicine. It is awarded annually to full-time medical students at accredited medical schools in North America. Fellows receive airfare and up to $1,000 in living expenses for a clinical training or research project that takes place in an area where tropical diseases are endemic. ASTMH, founded in 1903, is a worldwide organization of scientists, clinicians and program professionals whose mission is to promote global health through the prevention and control of infectious and other diseases that disproportionately afflict the global poor.

“The future of global health and tropical medicine is in great hands with a group as dynamic and committed as this class of Fellows,” said Kean Fellowship Committee Chair, Chandy John, MD, MS, University of Minnesota. “Headlines and news reports remind us that diseases that affect people in the tropics can have worldwide consequences. These fellows will be part of the next generation working to alleviate the suffering and long-term disability caused by these diseases.”

“This premier award is both honorific and substantive. It makes overseas training experiences for students interested in tropical disease possible, and works to build the ranks of physician-scientists focused on diseases in low-income countries,” said ASTMH President Alan Magill, MD, FASTMH. “The Fellowship enables these future leaders to expand their scientific networks, which in turn advances their professional contributions. As a Society, our goal is guide them towards fulfilling career options allowing them to do the work that helps improve the lives of so many who suffer needlessly from tropical disease.”

The Fellowship is named to honor Benjamin H. Kean, MD, (1912-1993), an internationally acclaimed tropical medicine expert and personal mentor to many of today’s world-renowned tropical medicine experts who were inspired by him as his students in medical school. Kean is also credited with discovering the causes of several diseases, including turista or travelers’ diarrhea.

BUMC Students to Enjoy Newly Renovated Space on 11th Floor Alumni Medical Library

August 7th, 2014 in Uncategorized

A recently completed renovation on the 11th floor of the Alumni Medical Library now provides a state-of-the-art, 220 seat testing center. The testing center is among the first of its kind, and will serve to both facilitate the administration of exams while at the same time enhancing the quality of study space for BUMC students.

Testing Center interior

Testing center interior

Renovations include a new ceiling with improved sound-proofing qualities, energy-efficient lighting, new carpeting and flooring, newly painted walls, new chairs and tables with power outlets at every seat, and club seating and cube tables in the hallway outside the floor-to-ceiling glass walls of the testing center. The heating and air conditioning system was upgraded, and a more powerful wireless system is provided throughout the testing center, as well as some wired network connections.

The testing center is equipped with a video monitoring system and an audio system for proctor announcements. During exams, proctors will have video monitoring controls to observe activity throughout the space via iPad. The testing center serves a dual-purpose as student study space when not reserved for exams.

Hall outside of Testing Center

Hall outside of testing center

Medical Library Computing & Systems offices are located on L-11, and staff will provide on-site technical support for student laptops and laptop loaners during exams. A new state-of-the-art computer classroom with 26 PCs will also serve as a public computing lab when classes and exams are not scheduled. A coffee/vending lounge includes additional club seating, group study tables, PCs, a scanner and print release station. The elevator lobby was renovated and a new LCD monitor and signage have been installed throughout the floor.

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BUSM Whitecoat Ceremony Photos on Facebook

August 5th, 2014 in Uncategorized

On Monday, Aug. 4,  members of the BUSM Class of 2018 received their white coats on Talbot Green.  View the pics on Facebook

whitecoat 2014

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Researchers Receive NIH Funding for Genetic Research in Alzheimer’s Disease

July 8th, 2014 in Uncategorized

Boston University School of Medicine (BUSM) received major funding from the National Institute on Aging (NIA) as part of a national effort to identify rare genetic variants that may protect against and contribute to Alzheimer’s disease risk.

Sudha Seshadri

Sudha Seshadri

The four-year, $3 million grant, “Identifying Risk and Protective Variants for AD Exploring their Significance and Biology” is led by Sudha Seshadri, MD, professor of neurology at BUSM and a Senior Investigator at the Framingham Heart Study and for the Cohorts for Heart and Aging Research in Genomic Epidemiology (CHARGE) consortium. This project is linked to CHARGE projects at two other universities which all together received grants totaling more than $10 million. Other BU investigators who are part of the CHARGE project are Anita DeStefano, PhD, Adrienne Cupples, PhD, and Josee Dupuis, PhD, who are professors of biostatistics, and Honghuang Lin, PhD, assistant professor of medicine.

“As a neurologist treating patients with Alzheimer’s disease, it is very exciting to see the increased recognition, at a national level, of the need to find more effective preventive and therapeutic measures,” said Seshadri.

Alzheimer’s disease, a progressive neurodegenerative disorder, has become an epidemic that currently affects 5.2 million people in the United States with economic costs that are higher than those of heart disease or cancer. Available drugs only marginally affect disease severity and progression. While there is no way to prevent this devastating disease, the discovery of genetic risk factors for Alzheimer’s is bringing researchers closer to learning how the genes work together and to identifying the most effective intervention for the disease.

Genetics is a cornerstone of identifying targets for Alzheimer’s disease therapies. This movement began in 2011, when President Barack Obama signed into law the National Alzheimer’s Project Act (NAPA), mandating support for Alzheimer’s research and health and long-term care services for affected individuals across all federal agencies. One of the first projects mandated by NAPA was the Alzheimer’s Disease Sequencing Project (ADSP). With this funding, CHARGE becomes a member of the National Institute of Aging-mandated Sequence Analysis Consortium, which also includes three National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI) Large-Scale Sequencing Centers.

CHARGE investigators will analyze whole exome and whole genome sequence data generated from 6,000 subjects with Alzheimer’s disease and 5,000 elderly individuals who do not have Alzheimer’s disease. They also will study data from approximately 100 large families, mostly of Caribbean and Hispanic descent, that include multiple individuals with Alzheimer’s disease to identify rare genetic variants that either protect against or cause Alzheimer’s disease. They will also be contributing additional CHARGE data from over 11,000 subjects with information on genetic sequence and AD-related traits.

“AD currently has no effective treatment thus prevention is the primary strategy to combat this disease,” said Boston University School of Medicine Dean Karen Antman, MD. “This is an exciting opportunity for our faculty to develop novel approaches that might ultimately delay or prevent AD.”

CHARGE is a collaboration of an international group of investigators. Eric Boerwinkle, PhD at the University of Texas, Houston and Baylor College of Medicine and Ellen Wijsman, PhD at the University of Washington will lead other funded CHARGE projects. Cornelia van Duijn, PhD who is a consultant on behalf of Erasmus University in the Netherlands.

This research at Boston University is supported by the National Institute on Aging grants U01-AG049505.

BUSM’s Robert Stern Testifies Before Senate Committee on Aging

June 27th, 2014 in Uncategorized

Robert Stern

Robert Stern

Robert Stern, PhD, professor of neurology, neurosurgery, and anatomy & neurobiology at BU School of Medicine as well as co-founder of BU’s Center for the Study of Traumatic Encephalopathy, testified before the U.S. Senate’s Special Committee on Aging at the June 25 hearing, “State of Play: Brain Injuries and Diseases of Aging.”

Stern, who is also Director of the Clinical Core of the BU Alzheimer’s Disease Center, gave an overview of the long-term consequences of repetitive brain trauma in athletes, in particular, chronic traumatic encephalopathy or CTE. CTE has been found in individuals, including youth, college, and professional contact sport athletes (including football, hockey, soccer, and rugby players), military service members exposed to blast trauma and other brain injuries, and others with a history of repetitive brain trauma.

He explained that although little is known about CTE what studies have shown thus far is that, in some individuals, early repetitive brain trauma triggers events in the brain leading to progressive destruction of the brain tissue including the build-up of an abnormal protein called tau, one of the abnormal proteins also seen in Alzheimer’s disease.

According to Stern, the ability to diagnose CTE during life is the next critical step in the study of CTE. He believes it will lead to the ability to answer important questions about this disease, such as: How common is CTE? What are the risk factors for CTE? Can it be prevented? How can we treat it? “At this point, we actually know very little about this disease, however one thing we do know about CTE is that every case of post-mortem diagnosed CTE has had one thing in common: a history of repetitive brain trauma,” Stern testified.

BUSM Faculty Urged to Participate in AAMC Faculty Engagement Survey

June 24th, 2014 in Uncategorized

BU School of Medicine is participating in the American Association of Medical Colleges (AAMC) Faculty Forward Engagement Survey to benchmark our faculty members’ engagement levels with peer institutions, and to provide data for us to enhance our efforts to attract, retain, support and advance our faculty.

Who is eligible: All full time and part time faculty members at BUSM

When: June 24 launch

How: You will receive an email from the AAMC with a personalized link to the Survey

Confidentiality assured: The AAMC’s staff administers all aspects of the Survey

Please share your views candidly to help us understand how you view specific BUSM institutional policies and practices and prioritize key workplace issues that are important to our faculty.

For questions or concerns, contact Robina Bhasin.

Please participate in this important initiative!