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28 June 2007
NIH Kidney Transplant Chief Joins Emory as Georgia Research Alliance Eminent Scholar
Allan D. Kirk, MD, PhD, has joined the Emory University School of Medicine as scientific director of the Emory Transplant Center and as a Georgia Research Alliance (GRA) Eminent Scholar. Dr. Kirk has been chief of the Transplantation Branch at the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK) of the National Institutes of Health since 2001. He is the founding director of the NIH Intramural Organ Transplant Program.

Dr. Kirk will serve as a kidney/pancreas transplant surgeon at Emory University Hospital and at Children's Healthcare of Atlanta, with a primary appointment in Emory's Department of Surgery and a secondary appointment in the Department of Pediatrics to facilitate novel transplant therapies for children.

Dr. Kirk is the 57th scientist attracted to Georgia research universities by the GRA and the ninth to join Emory as a GRA Eminent Scholar -- a national model for attracting world-class scientific talent to the state.

An internationally recognized surgical scientist and authority on transplant immunology, Dr. Kirk has conducted groundbreaking translational research in an effort to achieve immune tolerance of organ and tissue transplants without the use of toxic immunosuppressant drugs. While at the NIH, he has served as principal investigator on ten clinical trials leading to notable clinical breakthroughs, including the first trial to investigate a co-stimulation inhibitor in human transplantation, and the first trial to investigate the drug alemtuzumab in transplantation in North America. Blocking co-stimulation inhibitors is a strategy to keep the immune system from rejecting transplanted organs. His work has supported the introduction of several novel drug regimens into clinical trials. He has been awarded two Bench-to-Bedside Awards by the NIH Clinical Center.

Under Dr. Kirk's leadership, the NIH has developed into an influential kidney transplant research center that has added major new scientific information to the field. Clinically, the NIH center has maintained exceptional results with graft and patient survival rates exceeding those typical for kidney transplantation in the United States.

"We are extremely fortunate to have Allan Kirk joining our Emory Transplant Center," says director Christian P. Larsen, MD, PhD. "He is an international leader in the most important research priority in transplantation--eliminating the need for toxic immunosuppression drugs. Because this has been a major focus of our transplant research at Emory and the Yerkes National Primate Research Center over the past decade, we welcome the opportunity to work closely with Dr. Kirk in advancing this critical research."

The Emory Transplant Center is one of five patient-focused, comprehensive centers of excellence recently announced as part of Emory's Woodruff Health Sciences Center Vision 2012 strategic plan on transforming health care.

"Dr. Kirk will be a key scientist in our new initiative in next-generation vaccines and therapeutics," says GRA President C. Michael Cassidy. "He combines extraordinary expertise in research and in moving laboratory discoveries into clinical trials with excellence as a surgeon and a commitment to patient care. His service at the NIH also brings a unique national perspective to Georgia."

"This appointment is an extraordinary opportunity for me to integrate the translational research program that I have been fortunate to develop at the NIH with the already outstanding Emory Transplant Center and Children's Healthcare of Atlanta," said Dr. Kirk. "With this move, we will literally fuse our cutting edge translational research enterprise with Emory's stellar basic transplant labs and two of the most vibrant clinical transplant environments in the country. The GRA has made this unprecedented partnership possible, and in doing so has undoubtedly sped the progress of new approaches for minimizing immunosuppression in adult and pediatric transplant recipients. This effort will provide tangible improvements in transplant survival with significantly less dependence on immunosuppressive drugs."

Dr. Kirk received his MD from Duke University School of Medicine in 1987 and his PhD in immunology from Duke in 1992. He completed a general surgery residency at Duke in 1995 and a multi-organ transplantation fellowship at the University of Wisconsin in 1995. He is a Diplomat of the American Board of Surgery and a Fellow of the American College of Surgeons.

He has authored 83 original scientific manuscripts and 50 invited manuscripts on immunological pathways, published in leading scientific peer-reviewed journals. He has developed several novel methods related to immunosuppression resulting in seven patent applications. He has participated in more than 100 guest professorships, including those at Cambridge, Oxford, Columbia, Duke, Emory, Harvard, Johns Hopkins, Penn, and Yale, and numerous international lectureships.

About the Georgia Research Alliance A model public-private partnership between Georgia universities, business and state government, the Georgia Research Alliance helps build Georgia's technology-rich economy in three major ways: through attracting Eminent Scholars to Georgia's research universities; through helping create centers of research excellence and through converting research into products, services and jobs that drive the economy. To learn more about GRA, visit

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