The Dean's Letter
A monthly communication to faculty, students, and staff of the
School of Medicne
April 2008


A major step forward for future vaccine discoveries
With some of the best minds and technologies on the globe dedicated to emerging infectious diseases, the School of Medicine and the Emory Vaccine Center have formed a research partnership with the International Center for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology (ICGEB) in India. Emory Vaccine Center Director Rafi Ahmed, Associate Director Walter Orenstein, and Executive Associate Dean Claudia Adkison, and I recently returned from a trip to New Delhi to launch the joint ICGEB-Emory Vaccine Center, for HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, hepatitis C, dengue virus, malaria, and other infectious disease vaccine research.
     “This joint international center will provide opportunities for collaborative research in vaccine development that go beyond what currently is available,” Dr. Ahmed says. “Together, we plan to develop new vaccines and help move them from the laboratory through complex testing, approval, and manufacture to local health centers where they can benefit people with the greatest need.” He noted that India’s Minister of Science and Technology, Kapil Sibal, who inaugurated the joint center, was very excited about the collaboration’s potential of developing safe and affordable vaccines for diseases of global importance.
     The SOM and the Emory Global Health Institute will provide funding to support scientific staff. ICGEB will provide space and infrastructure for the center, which will be housed in a new 5,000-square-foot core immunology laboratory and in other facilities, including a level-3 biosafety laboratory. ICGEB promises access to other government research institutions and a close relationship with Indian vaccine companies and institutions experienced in production and clinical trials—India leads the world in quantities of vaccines produced. Collaborations could eventually expand beyond New Delhi to ICGEB components in other countries.
     ICGEB was founded under the United Nations as a center of excellence for research and training in molecular biology and biotechnology with special regard for the needs of the developing world.

Dr. Eaton to lead Physiology
Dr. Douglas Eaton has been named Chair of the Department of Physiology. He also is Distinguished Professor of Physiology, Professor of Pediatrics, and Director of the Center for Cell and Molecular Signaling and of the Fellowships in Research and Science Teaching program. He has been in the SOM since 1986, has served as Deputy Chair of the department for most of that time, and was appointed Interim Chair in Sept. 2007 after the death of Dr. Robert Gunn.
     “Because of the interactive environment at Emory, we have a unique opportunity to recruit faculty to promote translational research on campus and to develop systems and integrative biology jointly between Emory and Georgia Tech,” says Dr. Eaton. “We expect to grow in a way that will allow our faculty to take advantage of the enormous amounts of information available from the human genome to investigate fundamental mechanisms of health and disease.”
     Dr. Eaton’s primary research interests include studying the role of cell signaling in hypertension and electrolyte disorders, renal pathology in diabetes, the mechanism of action in general anesthetics, and nanosensor methods applied to clinical samples. He is a past president of the American Physiological Society and edits several national scientific journals.

Dr. Schinazi receives school’s most prestigious award
I am pleased to announce Dr. Raymond Schinazi, Professor of Pediatrics and Chemistry and Director of the Laboratory of Biochemical Pharmacology, is the recipient of the 2008 Dean’s Distinguished Faculty Lecture and Award. Dr. Schinazi will give his lecture on March 26 at 5:30 PM in the Harland Cinema in the Dobbs University Center.
     When reviewing nominees, the Selection Committee, co-chaired by Drs. Rafi Ahmed and Harriet Robinson (Microbiology/Immunology), cited Dr. Shinazi’s extraordinary contributions through his development of antiviral agents for the treatment of immunodeficiency virus, herpesvirus, and hepadnavirus infections and in the development of anticancer drugs for neutron capture therapy. His work’s importance is reflected in the fact that over 80% of AIDS patients worldwide who receive antiviral therapy now are treated with at least one of the drugs discovered by Dr. Schinazi and Dr. Dennis Liotta (Chemistry). Dr. Schinazi and his colleagues have generated intellectual property that has brought considerable funding and recognition to Emory. He also has been magnanimous in sharing his SOM discretionary account to support endowed chairs.

New director and other updates at the Atlanta VAMC
James Clark has been appointed Director of the Atlanta Veterans Affairs Medical Center (VAMC). He is in charge of the largest and most comprehensive tertiary care facility in the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Southeast Network. He provides overall leadership, health care delivery, budget and strategic planning for the VAMC and its six satellite facilities. The VAMC treats more than 60,000 veterans a year, and its 173-bed hospital is staffed by more than 200 SOM faculty.
     “The Atlanta VAMC has increased its support for graduate medical education by 14% over the past two years to a total of $6.8 million this academic year and will expand it an additional 2% next year,” says Dr. Norberto Fas (Medicine, Associate Chief of Staff for Education). “The VAMC’s residency program is one of the largest VA-supported programs in the United States—in the top 10%.” The increased funding allowed the VAMC to expand its residency pool by 10 positions this academic year and two more next year.
     The long-awaited “Lullwater bridge” is becoming a reality. The new bridge, over the creek in Lullwater Preserve, will connect Emory to the VAMC, allowing residents and faculty to walk from one campus to the other. It’s expected to open in April. The old bridge was closed in the late 1970s owing to disrepair.

Pathology on the move
The Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine is a new national leader in terms of grant support. “In addition to our two NIH training grants, we have one of the largest pathology residency programs in the United States and a tradition of outstanding medical student education—epitomized by the work of Dr. Whit Sewell,” says Dr. Tristram Parslow, chair of the department. Last year, the department, which has long been known as a premier center for blood banking and transfusion, inaugurated its Center for Transfusion and Cellular Therapies, headed by Dr. Christopher Hillyer. New faculty recruits have included Professors Eric Hunter, a renowned retrovirologist, and Max Cooper, an eminent immunologist and a member of the National Academy of Sciences. Other department highlights from just the past few months include the following:

Dr. Randy Hanzlick (Director, Forensic Pathology, and Fulton County Medical Examiner) became the first-ever recipient of the Lifetime Service Award from the National Association of Medical Examiners (NAME). Dr. Hanzlick is a past president of NAME and is credited with bringing the organization’s headquarters to Atlanta.
Dr. Volkan Adsay (Vice Chair and Director, Anatomic Pathology), has been named as a Distinguished Cancer Scholar of the Georgia Cancer Coalition, a state-funded program that recruits outstanding cancer scientists and clinicians. Dr. Adsay also is recognized as one of the world’s leading authorities on the diagnosis of pancreaticobiliary cancers.
Dr. Justin Cole (MD/PhD graduate and molecular genetic pathology fellow) received a national “Young Investigator” award at this year’s Association for Molecular Pathology meeting for his research on antibiotic-resistant bacteria. Dr. Charlie Hill served as mentor to Dr. Cole as well as to Dr. Sunita Park, who won this same award last year and is now a faculty member.
Dr. James Zimring (Assistant Professor) earned the 2007 David B. Pall Prize for Innovative Research in Transfusion Medicine from the National Blood Foundation in recognition of his ground-breaking work on immunologic aspects of blood transfusion.

National honor
The National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases (NIAMS) Advisory Council recently named Dr. Wright Caughman (Dermatology; Executive Associate Dean for Clinical Affairs; Director, Emory Clinic; and VP, Clinical and Academic Integration, WHSC) as one of four new members who will serve a four-year term. The council, a congressionally mandated, second tier of the NIH peer-review system, is composed of scientific and lay members who have expertise in NIAMS mission areas. As a member, Dr. Caughman will provide advice to NIAMS on broad policy and programmatic issues and make recommendations on research proposals.
     Dr. Caughman joined Emory 18 years ago after serving at the National Cancer Institute as medical officer and principal investigator in the dermatology branch. He also has led an NIH-funded Skin Disease Research Core Program at Emory.

Boss named editor
Dr. Jeremy Boss (Microbiology/Immunology) has been named the next Editor-in-Chief of the Journal of Immunology, one of the most cited publications in biomedicine. He will assume his new five-year position on July 1, 2008. He has served as Deputy Editor since 2003.
     Dr. Boss has been at Emory since 1986. In addition to leading active research and training programs, he is the author of a popular book on careers in biomedical research.

Top research award
Dr. Robert Taylor (Gyn/OB) was presented with the 2007 Distinguished Researcher Award from the American Society for Reproductive Medicine. He was recognized for his research on how hormones influence gene expression in endometriosis to create an inflammatory environment and spur angiogenesis when they are in the perineum.
     Dr. Taylor is Gyn/OB’s associate vice chair, research .

Thomas J. Lawley, MD
Dean, Emory School of Medicine



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