Rafael Ortega, MD, the associate dean of Diversity and Multicultural Affairs, has...
Rafael Ortega, MD, the associate dean of Diversity and Multicultural Affairs, has been selected by the Boston Business Journal as an honoree for the Annual Leaders in Diversity Awards. This award honors companies and individuals for their leadership in successfully promoting inclusiveness and opportunity. This year, the Leaders in Diversity program will feature nine winners in four categories and Ortega will be awarded the Corporate Leadership award for his exceptional work at the Office of Diversity and Multicultural Affairs. Ortega also serves as professor of anesthesiology at the School and attending physician in anesthesiology at BMC.
As associate dean of Diversity and Multicultural Affairs at BUSM, Ortega is responsible for fostering diversity and cultural competence among students, faculty and staff. He works with four Assistant Deans and together they strive to make the campus as heterogeneous and inclusive as possible. He is committed to unquestionable openness and inclusion, promoting relations among all groups, and inspiring students and faculty to learn from each other while appreciating their differences. He envisions an environment that demonstrates BUSM’s belief that diversity is essential to the development of future leaders in healthcare and research to serve the community, nation and world.
This year marks the 26th Evans annual research celebration, which was established in 1985 to acknowledge and foster the research activities of the Evans Department of Medicine. This two-day event features distinguished clinical and basic science lectures (Ingelfinger Visiting Professor and Wilkins Visiting Professor respectively), and poster and oral presentations of ongoing research. Faculty, students and staff are invited to attend these events.
Thursday, Oct. 16
Research Poster Session, 9 a.m.- noon, Hiebert Lounge
Wilkins Visiting Professor Lecture, 3:30 p.m., Keefer Auditorium
“Genetic Determinants of Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis”
David A. Schwartz, MD
Professor of Medicine and Immunology, Robert W. Schrier Chair of Medicine
University of Colorado
Friday, Oct. 17
Ingelfinger Visiting Professor – Grand Rounds, noon, Keefer Auditorium
“Joy in Practice: Innovations in Ambulatory Care”
Christine Sinsky, MD, FACP
Medical Associates Clinic and Health Plans
Boston University School of Medicine Class of 1988 alumnus Lloyd Paul Aiello, MD, PhD, received the prestigious Antonio Champalimaud Vision Award as part of a group that developed anti-angiogenic therapy for retinal disease.
The award celebrates both the success of the scientific process and the outcome—an effective therapy for the treatment of two of the leading causes of vision loss and blindness in the world: age-related macular degeneration and diabetic retinopathy.
Aiello, as well as other investigators who share this prize, demonstrated the important role VEGF (or vascular endothelial growth factor) plays in ocular retinal disease and how anti-VEGF agents could block its effect.
Aiello, who received BUSM’s Distinguished Alumnus Award this year, is a professor of ophthalmology at Harvard Medical School and vice president of ophthalmology, head of the Section on Eye Research and director of the Beetham Eye Institute at Joslin Diabetes Center. A third generation ophthalmologist, Aiello is committed to eliminating vision loss due to diabetic retinopathy and associated conditions. He has served on national and international committees and received at least 45 awards for his research. He also has been part of numerous editorial and review boards and authored more than 240 publications.
In 2011 the White House established the Joining Forces initiative to promote the education, research and clinical care for military members with TBI and PTSD. The Boston University Medical Campus (BUMC) was one of the original participants in the program. This year the Medical Campus will host the Third Annual Joining Forces Conference on Tuesday, Nov. 4, from 8 a.m.-noon in Hiebert Lounge. Faculty, students and staff are invited to attend guest lectures and participate in the poster session.
Speakers at the event include internationally renowned faculty researchers at BU School of Medicine and the VA Boston Healthcare System. BU is among the leaders in research and collaborative care for concussions and PTSD. VA Boston is a national leader in clinical care and research for veterans with post-deployment disorders, including TBI, PTSD, other anxiety disorders, affective disorders and comorbid substance abuse. VA Boston also has one of the most comprehensive mental health treatment systems in the country for veterans and is the nation’s largest recipient of VA research dollars supporting more than 150 research projects on PTSD, traumatic brain injury and other post-deployment disorders. VA Boston also is the home of the Behavioral Sciences and Women’s Health Sciences divisions of the National Center for PTSD.
Mark your calendar to learn about the cutting edge research being performed at our institutions in these fields. Hear how advances in research may be used to identify individuals at risk for prevention, intervention and treatment. After the formal lectures a poster session will highlight additional areas of research. Please submit poster session topics by completing this form and emailing it by Oct. 10 toDianna Gromczynski.
BUMC and VA Boston Joining Forces TBI/PTSD Conference
Tuesday, Nov. 4, 8 a.m.-Noon
BUSM Instructional Building, Hiebert Lounge, 14th Floor
- 8 – 8:30 a.m. Registration and Breakfast
- 8:30 – 8:50 Introductions and Welcome (Drs. Anna Hohler and Gary Kaplan)
- 8:50 – 9:35 “Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) in Female OEF/OIF/OND Veterans: Overview of Recent Research Findings” by Dawne Vogt, PhD, acting deputy director, Women’s Health Sciences Division, National Center for PTSD, VA Boston Healthcare System and associate professor of Psychiatry, BUSM
- 9:35 – 9:45 Break
- 9:45 – 10:30 “Current Concepts in Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy” by Ann McKee, MD, Chief of Neuropathology, VA Boston Healthcare System, professor of Neurology and Pathology, BUSM
- 11:15 – noon Poster Viewing
The Kripalu Institute for Extraordinary Living (IEL) of the Kripalu Center for Yoga & Health in Stockbridge, Mass., selected Jennifer Johnston, PhD, clinical psychologist and Kripalu Yoga instructor, as the first recipient of the Samuel B. Hanser Visionary Award for her research on the effects of yoga on people with epilepsy, a stress-aggravated disease. Dr. Johnston will be conducting her research under the guidance of Chris Streeter, MD, associate professor of Psychiatry and Neurology at BUSM.
The Hanser Award is the first endowed annual research award, bestowed by IEL. It is designed to foster yoga research and further the goal of making yoga a more accessible and accepted modality for health and well-being across all facets of society. An inaugural award of $10,000 was presented in September at the Symposium on Yoga Research, the leading academic conference on yoga.
“I feel honored to have been conferred the Hanser Award, and am very excited about the work we will be doing in Samuel Hanser’s name,” said Johnston. “It is my wish that our research will not only demonstrate the potential yoga has to provide people with epilepsy an inexpensive, easily accessible treatment with few side effects for seizure control, it will also help clarify the mechanisms through which yoga can influence brain function, and inform future research, treatment, and self-care strategies.”
The Hanser Award is a mentored research award that aims to advance innovations in yoga research by fostering collaborations between creative scientist-practitioners in the early stages of their careers and experienced research mentors. Applicants are required to partner with seasoned professionals who have the resources, expertise and experience to guide and support the research process.
The award honors the spirit and vision of the late Samuel B. Hanser, a healer who believed that every person holds the wisdom and power to lead a happy and healthy life. After Sam’s death at the age of 28, his family established a memorial trust in his name and, in collaboration with the IEL, seeks to support like-minded visionaries enabling the understanding and dissemination of yoga.
Boston University Receives ‘BEST’ Grant By NIH To Promote BioMedical Careers Beyond Academic Research
Boston University (BU) is one of seven institutions to receive the prestigious Broadening Experience in Scientific Training (BEST) award by the National Institutes of Health (NIH). The five-year, $1.8 million award will provide biomedical research trainees from across the University with enhanced training to help PhD students and postdoctoral trainees prepare for careers beyond conventional academic research.
“NIH recognizes that there are many ways in which biomedical PhD graduates can meaningfully contribute to the biomedical research enterprise,” said NIH Director Francis S. Collins, MD, PhD. “The future of biomedical research depends upon a sustainable and robust workforce, in which talented, well-trained scientists are best prepared to make significant contributions in academia, industry, government, business, and other venues.”
Approximately $3.7 million was set aside by the NIH’s Common Fund to invest in these programs to enhance training opportunities for graduate and postdoctoral trainees and prepare them for a host of scientific careers.
BU’s BEST program will involve trainees throughout the university’s schools and colleges engaged in biomedical research, including the School of Medicine (BUSM), the School of Public Health and the Henry M. Goldman School of Dental Medicine. BUSM’s Division of Graduate Medical Sciences (GMS) is home to more than 850 students and approximately 400 post-doctoral trainees that will benefit from the BEST program.
“In order to maintain the nation’s scientific competitiveness, it is critical to attract, prepare and engage a well-trained workforce. Our goal is to re-engineer the training pipeline,” explained Linda Hyman, PhD, associate provost for the Division of GMS at BUSM and one of the principal investigators of BU’s BEST program. “Using analysis of the job market as the driver of professional development programming, BU’s BEST will enable trainees to fulfill the needs, not only of the current market, but also the future biomedical workforce,” she added.
According to Barbara Schreiber, PhD, director of Graduate Studies in the department of biochemistry at BUSM and BEST co-investigator, BU’s BEST will utilize innovative tools and resources to analyze workforce data with input from key stakeholders to guide and evolve curriculum design. “State-of-the-art software will identify biomedical workforce jobs, job trends and skills required for various career pathways. With strong advising/mentoring, trainees will be exposed to a curriculum of foundational/professional skills and career options via coursework, workshops, career panels as well as hybrid online modules.”
Graduate students and postdoctoral researchers will be able to enhance their interests through a wealth of options via existing and planned coursework, and participation in shadowing experiences with a network of faculty, administrators, alumni and industry partners. Finally, trainees will have opportunities to further develop their interests by participation in internships, teaching and/or formal academic training (certificate or MA/MS degrees). “BU’s BEST program looks forward to developing a novel paradigm for expanded and targeted training in the biomedical sciences which will ultimately be fully transferable to other institutions,” added William Cruikshank, PhD, director of the Molecular and Translational Medicine Graduate Program at BUSM and a BEST co-investigator.
Glioblastma multiforme (GBM) is one of the most lethal primary brain tumors, with median survival for these patients only slightly over one year. Researchers at Boston University School of Medicine (BUSM), in collaboration with researchers from the City of Hope, are looking toward novel therapeutic strategies for the treatment of GBM in the form of targeted therapies against a unique receptor, the interleukin-13 receptor α chain variant 2 (IL13Rα2).
In a review paper published in the October issue of Neuro-Oncology, the researchers discuss various targeted therapies against IL13Rα2 and early successes of clinical trials with these therapies in the treatment of GBM. The paper also highlights the need for future trials to improve efficacy and toxicity profiles of targeted therapies in this field.
Targeted therapies, which are drugs that interfere with specific molecules involved in cancer growth, have been successfully used in the treatment of many cancers, including breast and blood cancers. Successful targets for therapies are specific to tumor cells and not found on normal cells. Selectively expressed on GBM and absent on surrounding brain tissue, the interleukin-13 receptor α chain variant 2 (IL13Rα2) was identified as a potential target for therapy for GBM two decades ago. IL13Rα2 also plays an important role in the growth of tumors. In normal physiologic conditions, IL-13 binds to the receptor IL13Rα1 and helps regulate immune responses. In cancer cells, IL-13 binds to the receptor IL13Rα2 and, through a series of steps, prevents cancer cells from undergoing normal cell death. Increased expression of IL13Rα2 promotes the progression of GBM.
Since its discovery, IL13Rα2 has provided a target for therapies in GBM. These therapies have ranged from fusion proteins of IL-13 and bacterial toxins, oncolytic viruses, and immunotherapies. A phase I clinical trial and a phase III clinical trial have been completed for a T-cell based immunotherapy and IL-13/ bacterial toxin fusion protein respectively, both with promising outcomes.
“The field of targeted therapies in gliomas holds a lot of promise, and IL13Rα2 is in an optimal position to materialize these promises,” explained corresponding author Sadhak Sengupta, PhD, assistant professor of neurosurgery at BUSM and principal investigator of the Brain Tumor Lab at Roger Williams. “While early trials are encouraging, we need further research to achieve better targeting of the receptor and improved safety profiles of the treatments.”
Funding for this research was provided by the Roger Williams Medical Center Brain Tumor Research Fund.
Takes charge at critical moment in research into infectious diseases
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
The Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce recently announced its list of Boston’s 2014 10 Outstanding Young Leaders and it includes Dr. Christine Pace, BUSM assistant professor of Medicine and primary care physician at BMC. The list acknowledges the contributions of young leaders who come from the public, private, and nonprofit sectors of Greater Boston.
Pace, whose interests include improving care for people with behavioral health problems, leads an interdisciplinary team at BMC that integrates behavioral health services into care provided at the Adult Primary Care Clinic. In 2011, she co-founded a primary care clinic at the Boston Public Health Commission’s opioid treatment program, which was one of the first models of its kind in the state, where patients are screened for behavioral health conditions and offered on-site counseling and psychiatric care. Dr. Pace also serves as a consultant for the Bureau of Substance Abuse Services in the Massachusetts Department of Public Health.
Yvette Joon Ying Boon, a Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics doctoral student, has been selected to receive the Perdana Scholar Award by the Education Department of Malaysia for students studying in the United States. The goal of the program is to identify, document and promote Malaysian students who have excelled in areas including academics, leadership, sports, entrepreneurship, invention and research. The Prime Minister of Malaysia will present the award Sept. 26 in New York.
A member of Phi Beta Kappa, Boon graduated from BU College of Arts and Sciences summa cum laude with distinction. She conducts her doctoral research in Dr. Benjamin Wolozin’s laboratory studying the post-transcriptional regulation of Alpha-Synuclein by Leucine-Rich Repeat Kinase in Parkinson’s disease.
“Joon’s selection for this award is a tribute to her many stellar qualities,” says Wolozin, BUSM professor of Pharmacology. “Joon is one of those rare scientists who is passionate about science and people. Her work on Parkinson’s disease is revealing novel mechanisms through which micro-RNA contribute to the pathophysiology of the disease process. At the same time, Joon’s enthusiasm for helping her friends and colleagues benefits everyone around her. Three cheers for Joon!”
An award winning Taekwondo Master with a fourth-degree Black Belt, Boon coaches the BU Taekwondo Team. She has displayed her artwork and photography during BUSM Art Days, at Graduate Medical Science Art Day and in the BUSM literary and arts magazine. Chosen as the recipient of the first Graduate Medical Science Student Organization (GMSSO) Representative Award this year, she served as secretary of the GMSSO for two years and the pharmacology representative for the past five years. She volunteers in the greater Boston area, including with the Alzheimer’s Association, teaching Taekwondo and women’s self-defense seminars, and at fundraising events for the China Care Fund.