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gayathri-srinivasanNew industry liaison ethicsEthical consensus on biotechnology linda-womackIn brief
March 11, 2015

Major new funding in Alzheimer's, TB, and public health

Neurologist and ADRC director Allan Levey (right) with radiology professor John Votaw.

Early detection of Alzheimer's

The Goizueta Foundation is committing $25 million to Emory's Alzheimer's Disease Research Center (ADRC) to support research aimed at fundamentally changing the way Alzheimer's disease is detected and treated.

"Our father believed in making smart investments where the outcomes may be uncertain but the rewards could be great," said Olga Goizueta Rawls, the foundation's chair and CEO. "We believe that strengthening Emory's ADRC will help generate much-needed support for innovative research for all neuro-related diseases."

Allan Levey, director of the ADRC and Betty Gage Holland Chair in Neurology, says the gift will support research to help predict Alzheimer's disease before the first signs appear. "As we learn more about risk factors for this disease, we also gain a better understanding of its relationship to vascular, immune, and other health concerns that many face as they age," he says.

In recent years, cutbacks in research funding from the federal government and other sources have put increased pressure on researchers' ability to fund new, early-stage projects. This commitment will support development of early "proof-of-concept" findings to enable Emory researchers to apply for NIH and other funding sources to drive new innovation that can help patients.

Emory's ADRC is one of 13 comprehensive ADRCs supported by the NIH and the only such entity in the Southeast. Read more.

Emory-led tuberculosis research unit

Henry Blumberg  

The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases has selected four sites, including one led by Emory, for a Tuberculosis Research Units (TBRU) network. The NIH will award the Emory-led TBRU approximately $18.7 million over seven years.

Currently, about one-third of the world's population has latent TB. Although infection with the TB causes active disease in only a fraction of infected people, latent TB can reactivate and progress to active, transmissible, and potentially fatal disease.

According to principal investigator Henry Blumberg, the differences in immune responses in those who remain well and those who become ill are not well understood. The four TBRUs will work together to examine how the TB bacterium interacts with the human host and the immune system to cause disease, with the aim of improving diagnosis, prevention, vaccines, and therapies.

In addition to Emory, collaborators include investigators at the CDC, NYU, the Kenya Medical Research Institute/CDC, DeKalb County (Georgia) Board of Health, La Jolla Institute of Allergy and Immunology, and Aeras. Studies of TB in nonhuman primates will be done at Yerkes and at the Tulane National Primate Research Center. Read more.

Expanding public health capacity in Africa

Scott McNabb, Carlos del Rio, and Saad Omer

Rollins' Hubert Department of Global Health received a $7.43 million, five-year cooperative agreement from the CDC to implement the African Centre of Excellence for Public Health Security. The program seeks to improve preparedness and response to health threats in low-income countries, with a focus on West Africa, by strengthening workforce development in the region.

Led by Rollins faculty members Scott McNabb, Carlos Del Rio (Hubert Professor and chair), and Saad Omer, the program will be implemented in collaboration with partners who are based in West Africa or have an established track record of work in the region.

"In the short term, implementing this project will increase knowledge, skills, and coordination of the public health workforce in West Africa to prevent and control infectious diseases and other emerging threats to global health security," says McNabb. "In the long term, it will lead to the creation of a locally owned and operated public health preparedness center focused on training that will improve regional capability to detect and control infectious disease outbreaks, public health emergencies of international concern, and other threats." Read more.

Helping industry stay tuned to Emory research

Gayathri Srinivasan  

Since her arrival at Emory in December, Gayathri Srinivasan has been engaged in nonstop networking, connecting with researchers, tech transfer officers, and people in sponsored programs, clinical trials, government affairs, and others throughout Emory who are involved in alliances with industry.

Srinivasan is director of public and private partnerships, a new position in Development and Alumni Relations that takes a different slant on the traditional fundraising role—focusing on facilitating alternative research funding. "My job is to dig down deep into various areas of research here to cultivate outside interest and relationship—to help industry stay tuned to opportunities at Emory," she says. Her long-term goal, she adds, is to help establish long-lasting partnerships that align with Emory's mission and vision.

Srinivasan says her external outreach encompasses regional, national, and international concerns and is not confined just to industry but includes disease research foundations using venture philanthropy and other potential partners who might benefit from Emory expertise or services. "Basically, I am interested in facilitating research relationships that can result in revenue streams," she says.

Srinivasan's background gives her special insight into the complex inner workings of both academic research and commercial enterprise.

She has a PhD in microbiology from Ohio State (she was part of a team that discovered pyrrolysine, the 22nd amino acid) and has expertise also in biochemistry, cell biology, and genetics, among other areas. She has served on the licensing teams at both MIT and UMass, and she directed strategic alliances at T1D Exchange, a nonprofit seeking better therapies and devices for type 1 diabetes. She has negotiated deals with pharmaceutical, medical device, biotech, and other entities and has overseen service agreements and portfolios for biorepositories and tissue banks.

"I love basic research, which is why I love the challenge of getting investors and partners excited about it too," she says. "There are so many opportunities here to build partnerships that will work to benefit all parties involved."

Reaching ethical consensus on biotechnology

30 countries, 200 delegates, 1,000 participants, 1 set of standards

These numbers highlight the content and goals of the upcoming BEINGS 2015 Summit on May 17-19 at the Tabernacle in downtown Atlanta.

BEINGS (which stands for Biotechnology and the Ethical Imagination: A Global Summit) is a gathering of the world's thought leaders to discuss highly debated issues of stem cell research, synthetic biology, and other human cellular biotechnologies. Hundreds of experts in science and ethics will work together to establish a vision and consensus on ethical guidelines and policy standards for research and development in this area.

Paul Root Wolpe  

According to summit founder Paul Root Wolpe, director of the Emory Center for Ethics, this assembly is needed because advances in biotechnology are moving at a dizzying pace, with profound implications, both good and bad, for the future of humanity.  (Think regrowth of missing limbs, design of hybrid animals, engineered bacteria.) "No international consensus exists on how we should think about, direct, or limit our biotechnological efforts," says Wolpe, who also serves as NASA's senior bioethicist and as editor-in-chief of the American Journal of Bioethics Neuroscience. Moreover, he says, the current regulatory environment for cellular biotech is bad for business, academic research, and the public:

"Laws differ from state to state and nation to nation. A researcher might be allowed to carry out a cellular experiment in California but prohibited from doing that same research in Georgia. In Europe, members of the European Union have very different rules on biotechnology. Germany's laws are very strict, partly in response to concerns about their history during WWII, while the UK's are very liberal. This leads to regulatory chaos related to R&D, costing businesses millions in revenue and even more to the public in lost opportunity."

At the summit, a distinguished group of speakers will help frame the issues, and delegates (scientists, policy-makers, ethicists, business leaders, NGO leaders, and creative thinkers from philosophy, religion, art, and the humanities) from the top 30 biotech-producing countries of the world will help draft the consensus document, and more than 800 visitors/observers will be able to offer input. In addition to Emory and 14 other Georgia-based partner universities, a host of hometown sponsors, including Coca-Cola, the Marcus Foundation, and the Georgia Research Alliance, are helping fund the event.

"If we are successful," says Wolpe, "we will have a new set of standards that can help shape the direction of global biotechnological advancement for years to come. With a common playbook, the biotech industry can move beyond the regulatory chaos and streamline research in ways that will ultimately benefit all of us.  Register for BEINGS 2015.

From the Executive VP

Optimizing opportunity in research

Wright Caughman

The research enterprise in academic health centers (AHCs) nationwide is changing rapidly, with the introduction of new challenges and opportunities and the decline of traditional sources of support. In its 19th report, Refocusing the Research Enterprise in a Changing Health Ecosystem, the Emory-sponsored Blue Ridge Academic Health Group offers comprehensive recommendations to help AHC leaders respond energetically and creatively to fundamental changes in research funding, organizational structure, cost, effectiveness, and accessibility.

The Blue Ridge Academic Health Group brings together AHC leaders from across the country to study and report on issues of fundamental importance to improving the health of the nation, our health care system, and the ability of academic health centers to sustain progress in health and healing through education and research. Read previous reports on these issues.

Please direct questions and comments to evphafeedback@emory.edu.


In Brief

Womack remembered

linda womack

Linda Womack, Emory's director of state government affairs since 2000, died Feb. 28 after a brief illness. She was 63. Womack spent many hundreds of hours building relationships with lawmakers and advocating on behalf of issues important to Emory and Emory Healthcare. Her words of support were listened to and valued, says EVPHA Wright Caughman, because she was so respected by everyone in the legislature. Emory will host a memorial service on March 12 at 11:00 in Cannon Chapel. Read more.

New US News rankings

The Nell Hodgson Woodruff School of Nursing ranked 10th this year in US News & World Report's newest ranking of graduate schools. This ranking is the highest in the school's history and was based on new statistical and reputational data introduced this year by US News. Public Health ranked seventh this year. Medicine ranked 23rd in research and 42nd in primary care, and its PA program ranked third, while biomedical engineering ranked second. Read more.

Nell Hodgson Woodruff honored


Nell Hodgson Woodruff, namesake of Emory's nursing school and wife of Robert W. Woodruff, was inducted earlier this month into the Georgia Women of Achievement (GWA), in honor of Women's History Month. Since its creation in 1992, GWA has honored 80 women. Woodruff's niece, "Little Nell" Hodgson Watt, represented her aunt at the event.

NP/PA residency is accredited

Heather Meissen directs the program.

The Emory Critical Care Center's Nurse Practitioner and Physician Assistant Residency Program recently was accredited as a Practice Transition Program by the American Nurses Credentialing Center's Commission on Accreditation. Emory is the first advanced practice RN program in the U.S. to achieve such accreditation. Read more.

Yerkes donates chimps to wildlife park


Yerkes is donating eight chimpanzees to the Wingham Wildlife Park in Kent, United Kingdom. The center also is considering several additional donation opportunities, all of which combined will retire a significant portion of the center's chimpanzee colony. Read more.


Marilane Bond

In the medical school, Marilane Bond (formerly assistant dean) is now associate dean of medical education.

Hal Jones holds a new position as assistant dean and director of culture.

Fadlo Khuri

Fadlo Khuri is the new executive associate dean for research, and new members of the school's research team include Allan Levey, Jeremy Boss, Haian Fu, and Michael Zwick (read more).

Xiaodong Cheng

Also in medicine, Georgia Research Alliance Eminent Scholar Xiaodong Cheng received the SER-CAT Outstanding Science Award for 2015 for the scientific impact of his work.

David Weiss and Leslee Shaw received the Levy Research Award for junior and senior faculty, respectively (the university's highest research honor).

Seven faculty members—Henry Edelhauser, Ian Copland, Jacques Galipeau, Edmund Waller, John Roback, Kerry Ressler, and Ian Crockerwere honored at Tech Transfer's ninth annual celebration of technology and innovation earlier this month.

Elizabeth Corwin and Bonnie Jennings

In nursing, Elizabeth Corwin and Bonnie Jennings both received awards from the Southern Nursing Research Society (read more), and Jennifer Foster received a Fulbright to continue her work in midwifery practice in Chile (read more).

Sagar Lonial and Charles Staley

At Winship, Sagar Lonial has been named chief medical officer, and Charles Staley has been named chief quality officer. Read more.


March 21-28: Atlanta Science Festival.

March 25: "Lessons My Parents Taught Me: An Emory Aging Expert Reflects." Ted Johnson. 4-5 p.m. Jones Room, Woodruff Library. Part of the Life of the Mind Series.

March 31-May 11: Free Coursera course on Ebola. Led by Carlos del Rio and Dabney Evans. More info.

April 2-3: Southeastern Critical Care Summit. Emory Conference Center. More info. Register.

April 30: Sixth Annual Academic & Industry Intersection Conference. 9 a.m. - 1:30 p.m. Morehouse School of Medicine. More info.

May 17-19: BEINGS [bioethics] Summit. The Tabernacle, Atlanta. More info.

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