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Vol. LXI, No. 15
July 24, 2009
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Milestones

Griffith Named NIDCD Scientific Director

Dr. Andrew Griffith

Dr. Andrew Griffith, chief of the molecular biology and genetics section and the Otolaryngology Branch at NIDCD, has been appointed the institute’s scientific director. He succeeds Dr. Robert Wenthold, who will remain chief of the section on neurotransmitter receptor biology in the Laboratory of Neurochemistry.

“Dr. Griffith is an exceptional clinician and scientist who has made major advances in identifying genes associated with hereditary hearing loss,” said NIDCD director Dr. James Battey. “We’re fortunate to have someone with his experience at NIH continuing to build on the strong research foundation laid down by Dr. Wenthold.”

Griffith earned his M.D. and Ph.D. in molecular biophysics and biochemistry at Yale University and went on to complete his residency in otolaryngology- head and neck surgery at the University of Michigan Medical School. He arrived at NIDCD in 1998 as a research fellow with a clinical and basic scientific interest in hearing and balance and became a tenure-track investigator in 2000. He was tenured and appointed chief of the Otolaryngology Branch in 2006.

For Griffith, a pivotal time in his research career was at the University of Michigan, where he found he could combine his research and clinical interests through studies in genetics.

“The conventional techniques of tissue sampling in molecular biology weren’t appropriate for the study of the inner ear, because you can’t get to the tissue in a human subject without sacrificing hearing and balance,” he said. “Genetic studies allow us to identify genes and proteins associated with hearing and balance without having to access the tissue.”

When he began his research, only a few genes had been discovered for hereditary disorders of hearing and balance. Now, however, Griffith and other investigators in labs across the world have collectively identified dozens of genes for hereditary hearing and balance disorders. Griffith and his group at NIDCD have discovered a variant of a gene that modifies the severity of at least one form of hereditary hearing loss and have also identified another novel gene with dominant and recessive alleles that can cause progressive hearing loss or congenital deafness in both mice and humans. His research now focuses on functions and molecular mechanisms of these genes and mutations in mouse models.

Griffith plans to continue the program in hearing, balance, speech and language research already established at NIDCD. He also hopes to build up the clinical research program and increase the diversity of investigators. “Since I’m a clinician,” he said, “I’m sensitive to the importance of trying to translate basic discoveries into things that benefit patients.”

During the course of his career, among many other honors, Griffith has been awarded the M.D./Ph.D. Prize for Outstanding Graduate of the Medical Scientist Training Program at Yale in 1992, and the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers in 2002.

Germino Named NIDDK Deputy Director

New NIDDK deputy director Dr. Gregory Germino
New NIDDK deputy director Dr. Gregory Germino

Dr. Gregory G. Germino was recently named as NIDDK’s new deputy director.

“Dr. Germino is a world-renowned physician-scientist, a committed mentor to the next generation of researchers, an experienced manager of budgets and people, and a compassionate communicator to professional and patient advocacy organizations,” said NIDDK director Dr. Griffin Rodgers, who made the appointment. “We are very fortunate to have him join us.”

Germino will help oversee an annual budget of $1.9 billion and a staff of 630 scientists, physician- scientists and administrators at research facilities in Bethesda and Phoenix. NIDDK’s research interests include both common conditions such as diabetes and obesity and rare diseases such as sickle cell disease, Cooley’s anemia and polycystic kidney disease, an inherited condition characterized by the development of cysts in the kidneys.

“I’m honored to have been chosen as NIDDK’s deputy director,” said Germino. “NIDDK’s history is distinguished, and I look forward to encouraging and contributing to its future.”

As a research investigator at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, where he was a professor of medicine in the division of nephrology and professor in the department of molecular biology and genetics, Germino made important contributions to understanding the genetic origins of polycystic kidney disease. He will continue his research at NIDDK.

Germino received his undergraduate degree in biology from Loyola University of Chicago in 1979 and his medical degree from the Pritzker School of Medicine at the University of Chicago in 1983. In the same year, he began further training in internal medicine and nephrology at Yale and stayed on as a junior faculty member for another 4 years. He also spent a research year at Oxford University in England. Germino moved to Johns Hopkins University in 1992 and became a full professor in 2003.

Germino has been a visiting professor and invited lecturer at universities, medical centers and professional and nonprofit associations across the United States and around the world. He has written more than 70 papers in peer-reviewed journals and more than a dozen book chapters. In addition, he has received numerous awards including the NIH Physician-Scientist Award (1988-1993), the NIH MERIT Award (2000) and the Lillian Jean Kaplan International Prize for the Advancement in the Understanding of Polycystic Kidney Disease (2005).—

Gibson To Direct CSR Division

Dr. Joy Gibson

The Center for Scientific Review recently named Dr. Joy Gibson as director of the Division of Translational and Clinical Sciences. She had been acting director of that division for several months.

“Dr. Gibson has been an integral part of our CSR team. Her impressive career has prepared her to continue to contribute in ever more vital ways,” said CSR director Dr. Toni Scarpa. “We conducted a national search and drew an exceptional group of candidates. Joy’s service to CSR distinguished her as the best candidate. I am excited to see her in her new role.”

The areas covered by her division’s review groups include cardiovascular and respiratory science, blood disorders, oncology and surgery and bioengineering. The division has five review groups and 34 study sections, with one assigned scientific review officer per section.

CSR recently realigned like-science integrated review groups within five divisions to better reflect the science represented; it created one new division, and renamed the other four. Gibson now heads one of the four re-titled divisions.

In her previous role at CSR, Gibson was chief of the cardiovascular sciences and hematology IRGs. She oversaw numerous regular study sections for cardiovascular sciences and hematology, two small business panels and two other review panels.

Gibson joined CSR in 2001 after spending 14 years in the pharmaceutical industry. She received a D.Sc. in nutrition from Harvard University School of Public Health. After 2 years of postdoctoral research at Cornell University, she studied lipid and lipoprotein metabolism in a clinical setting at the of New South Wales in Australia, Mt. Sinai School of Medicine and the University of Miami School of Medicine, where she attained the rank of associate professor.

Garte To Direct CSR’s Division of Physiological, Pathological Sciences

Dr. Seymour Garte

The Center for Scientific Review has named Dr. Seymour Garte as director of the Division of Physiological and Pathological Sciences.

“Dr. Garte joins us from outside the NIH after a nationwide search,” said CSR director Dr. Toni Scarpa. “His contribution to science has been tremendous and I am confident that his contribution to the NIH will be equally great. Equally important, he will bring precious experience from his interactions with scientists and societies in this country and abroad.”

Garte comes to CSR from the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health, where he was a professor of environmental and occupational health sciences and a member of the of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute.

An alumnus of the City of New York with a Ph.D. in biochemistry and a bachelor of science degree in chemistry, he was a professor at New York University Medical Center’s department of environmental medicine and at the of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey, School of Public Health. He also was scientific director of the Genetics Research Institute in Milan, Italy.

Garte has over 200 scientific publications in genetics, epidemiology, the environment and other areas. He is the author of Where We Stand: A Surprising Look at the Real State of the Planet and Genetic Susceptibility to Environmental Carcinogenesis and is co-editor of Molecular Epidemiology of Chronic Diseases.

The Division of Physiological and Pathological Sciences reviews applications related to endocrinology and reproduction, immunological, infectious diseases and microbiology, nutritional and metabolic, digestive and urological areas. It contains four review groups and 31 study sections, with one scientific review officer assigned to each section.

NIH Accepts Bike to Work Day Award
NIH was recently honored by the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments (MWCOG) for having the highest employee participation—for the fourth year in a row—in Bike To Work Day. On hand for the plaque presentation were (from l) Chantal Buchser of the Washington Area Bicyclist Association; Dr. Alfred Johnson, director, Office of Research Services; Nicholas Romfos, director of MWCOG’s Commuter Connections; and Angela Atwood-Moore, president, NIH Bicycle Commuter Club. NIH was recently honored by the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments (MWCOG) for having the highest employee participation—for the fourth year in a row—in Bike To Work Day. On hand for the plaque presentation were (from l) Chantal Buchser of the Washington Area Bicyclist Association; Dr. Alfred Johnson, director, Office of Research Services; Nicholas Romfos, director of MWCOG’s Commuter Connections; and Angela Atwood-Moore, president, NIH Bicycle Commuter Club.

Cancer Epidemiologist Patel Dies

Dr. A.R. “Joe” Patel

Dr. A.R. “Joe” Patel, who retired from NCI in January 2006, died on June 3. Most of his career was spent working in the extramural epidemiology research program, where he was known especially for his early stewardship of research on diet, nutrition and cancer and on minorities and cancer. He had worked for NCI for 28 years and retired as a program director with the Epidemiology and Genetics Research Program of NCI’s Division of Cancer Control and Population Sciences.

For the last 15 years of his career at NCI, he focused on encouraging extramural investigators to launch epidemiologic studies on U.S. ethnic and minority populations and cancer, an achievement Patel viewed as his most important. With expansion of this research portfolio, he began promoting the establishment of cohort studies so that long-term prospective studies, particularly on diet and cancer causation in diverse populations, would be possible. By the time he retired, Patel left behind a range of cohort studies for which he was program director that included populations of U.S. African Americans, Latinos, Native Americans, Native Hawaiians, Japanese, Filipinos, Chinese and Caucasians. Some cohort studies have wide name recognition, such as the Nurses’ Health Study, Health Professionals Follow-Up Study, Black Women’s Health Study and California Teachers Study.

In the early 1980s, he jumpstarted investigation of diet and cancer by writing a Request for Applications (RFA) to encourage research grants in dietary assessment methods. “At this time, diet and nutrition were only starting to be appreciated as possible determinants of cancer. The RFA was central to the advancements that have been made in the field of nutritional epidemiology,” said Dr. Walter Willett of Harvard University, who is internationally renowned for his research on diet and nutrition and was one of Patel’s grantees for more than 20 years.

“The development of validated dietary assessment methods through the NCI funding had a major benefit not only for cancer research but many other fields as well,” said Willett. “For example, as a result of leads provided by dietary assessments, vitamin A supplementation is now part of standard care for patients with visual impairment due to retinitis. Trans fatty acids have been identified as an important contributor to coronary heart disease and are rapidly being removed from the food supply. B-vitamin supplements are part of standard care for pregnant women in Africa who are infected with HIV. None of this would have happened without the methodological developments encouraged by Dr. Patel.”

CSR Mourns Warehouse Supervisor Robb

The Center for Scientific Review’s warehouse supervisor, Thomas H. “Butch” Robb, died June 20 of a heart attack.

Robb was a federal employee for 40 years, beginning his NIH career in 1969 at 17 with two temporary appointments at the Division of Research Grants (DRG), now called CSR. The next year, Robb took the first of several permanent positions at the NIH Printing and Reproduction Branch, ultimately returning to DRG in 1987. He was promoted to support services supervisor in 1997.

“Butch spent most of his federal career here at CSR, and we will greatly miss his smile, willingness to go out of his way to help and most of all his kind spirit,” said CSR Executive Officer Melanie Keller. “His death is met with great sadness and shock.”

Robb’s commitment to NIH drew him numerous awards, including a 1998 NIH Director’s Award.

He is survived by siblings Ruth Blue, Evelyn, Tawanna and George Robb and his former wife and companion Marcell Robb, a step-daughter, Marty Robb, and other family members and friends.

NIAID Receives Tech Transfer Award
Shown are (from l) J. Scott Deiter, FLC chair and director of technology transfer, Naval Surface Warfare Center, Indian Head, Md.; Dr. Arnold Kirshenbaum, adjunct investigator, NIAID Laboratory of Allergic Diseases; Dr. Michael R. Mowatt, director, NIAID Office of Technology Development and representative to FLC; J. Susan Sprake, vice-chair, FLC and business development, Los Alamos National Laboratory.
The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases recently received an Award for Excellence in Technology Transfer from the Federal Laboratory Consortium for Technology Transfer (FLC) for highly effective transfer of a “Mast Cell Line for Research on Allergies and Inflammatory Diseases.” Developed by Drs. Arnold Kirshenbaum, Cem Akin and Dean Metcalfe, the line represents a potent tool for understanding the normal functions of human mast cells and identifying the mechanisms of a variety of diseases. Research using this cell line holds great promise in the development of novel therapies to combat allergic diseases. Shown are (from l) J. Scott Deiter, FLC chair and director of technology transfer, Naval Surface Warfare Center, Indian Head, Md.; Dr. Arnold Kirshenbaum, adjunct investigator, NIAID Laboratory of Allergic Diseases; Dr. Michael R. Mowatt, director, NIAID Office of Technology Development and representative to FLC; J. Susan Sprake, vice-chair, FLC and business development, Los Alamos National Laboratory.

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