Contact: Alexander Shtifman
Phone: 617-713-8989
alex...@childrens.harvard.edu

Rajewsky Named to Rosen Professorship

Senior Investigator Klaus Rajewsky, M.D., has been named as the first incumbent of the Fred S. Rosen Chair of Pediatrics at the Immune Disease Institute. The endowed Rosen Professorship has been established in honor of the former president and scientific director of IDI. The terms of the Rosen Professorship call for incumbents who are pursuing research in immunology and/or hematology, with a focus on stem cells.

Rajewsky joined the Immune Disease Institute in 2000, coming from Germany where he had built an outstanding scientific reputation. According to IDI Scientific Director Fred Alt, Ph.D., Rajewsky has greatly enriched the scientific communities at IDI and at Harvard Medical School through his outstanding studies in immunology and cancer research, his deep passion for science, and, in particular, through his collaborative interactions.

Rajewsky is renowned for mentoring young scientists and stimulating their creativity. He has received many honors and awards and is a member of the National Academy of Sciences. At IDI, he is studying lymphocyte development and activation, while also further developing his path-breaking gene-targeted mutation models. His work is paving the way for new therapies to address B cell lymphomas and other cancers.

IDI President John C. Baldwin, M.D., speaking for the entire Institute, warmly congratulates Rajewsky on this great honor. A celebratory reception for him will be announced shortly.

IDI Researchers Identify Potential New Avenue for Defeating HIV

In a collaborative enterprise among three labs at IDI, an entirely new means of treatment for AIDS has been discovered using RNA interference (RNAi) to inhibit replication of the HIV virus in macrophage cells. The findings were reported in the December 15th issue of PLoS Pathogens, an open-access, online journal that has become a prestigious destination for scientific papers.

Researchers in the IDI labs of Anne Goldfeld, M.D., Premlata Shankar, M.D., and Judy Lieberman, M.D., Ph.D., including Shahin Ranjbar and Alla Tsytsykova as first authors on the PLoS paper, worked together to discover that RNAi can inhibit the NFAT5 protein by interfering in its interaction with a DNA binding site. This binding site, importantly, is conserved across multiple strains of HIV strains that are prevalent in North America, Asia, and Africa and therefore has enhanced potential as a therapeutic target.

This is the first study which identifies NFAT5's key role in HIV replication. Because macrophages serve as major reservoirs for HIV, stopping viral replication in these cells would represent a major new therapeutic strategy against AIDS, which currently infects about 40 million people worldwide. In 2005, roughly 3.1 million people died of the disease, including 570,000 children under age fifteen.

RNA interference is a powerful new therapeutic tool that silences the expression of genes. For more information on the promise and challenges of RNAi research at IDI, see the new issue of Breakthrough.

IDI Goes to Bloomingdales

IDI will be participating in Bloomingdale's Annual Shop for Charity Benefit on Wednesday, February 28th, from 10 AM - 10 PM at the Chestnut Hill, Mass. stores. More than 30 other charities are participating, but if you buy your $10 ticket from IDI, the Institute gets to keep the money and you receive 15 percent off anything you purchase at Bloomingdales that day.

The shopping benefit will feature live entertainment, discounts, and fashion events. Your admission price is a $10 donation to IDI. When you arrive at Bloomingdales and submit your ticket, IDI will receive an additional $5 from Bloomingdales. In addition, if more than 70 people show up, IDI gets a piece of the "general ticket sales" made at the door on the 28th. Last year that was more than $5,000 for each charity that qualified!

Tickets may be purchased by contacting Kimberley Lubin at 617-278-3334 or lubin@idi.harvard.edu.

Springer Structural Biology Grant Renewed

The National Institutes of Health has awarded Senior Investigator Timothy Springer, Ph.D., an additional five years of funding for his grant entitled Leukocyte Adhesion Receptors Mac-1 and P150, 95. The grant, competitively-renewed for five years (1/1/07 - 12/31/11) at a total cost of $2.275 million, will continue Springer's exhaustive research into the conformational structure and behavior of proteins involved in the adhesion of leukocytes to cell walls in the bloodstream a key aspect of the inflammatory response. Springer's research has already led to therapeutics for inflammatory and autoimmune diseases such as psoriasis and rheumatoid arthritis.

Items Needed for Spring Auction

The Institute's annual Spring Auction (date to be determined soon) will feature, to nobody's surprise, an auction of items small and large. This silent auction has been very well received in past years, with prizes ranging from jewelry to vacations to works of art. IDI is now asking for donations of auction items to make this year's event the best ever. If you have something special to donate, contact Kimberley Lubin at 617-278-3334 or lubin@cbrinistitute.org.

The Spring Auction will also feature a grand-prize raffle, musical entertainment, a buffet dinner, and bar. All IDI friends, supporters, scientists, and staff are invited to attend and help the Institute raise money to support its commitment to biomedical research leading to new therapies and cures for illnesses including cancer, heart disease, AIDS, tuberculosis, Alzheimer's disease, and many more.

Helping Hand for a Hero

Sonia Pierre, recipient of the 2006 Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights Award for her work on behalf of ethnic Haitians in the Dominican Republic, underwent successful heart surgery in early January thanks to the intervention of IDI President John C. Baldwin, M.D. A member of the board of trustees at the RFK Memorial, and a renowned heart surgeon, Baldwin met Pierre at a dinner honoring her in November, 2006. He learned of her congenital heart condition and arranged for Pierre to receive free care at Methodist Hospital in Houston. Baldwin was chief of surgical services at Methodist from 1994-1998, as well as the DeBakey Chair at nearby Baylor College of Medicine. Rafael Espada, M.D., from Baylor, performed the successful operation.

The story attracted widespread media attention, in outlets such as the Associated Press, Boston Globe, Boston Herald, Miami Herald, Houston Chronicle, local TV in Massachusetts and Texas, Telemundo.com, Univision.com, and many others. In the stories, Dr. Baldwin was identified as the president of the Immune Disease Institute.

Pierre, age 43, works to secure citizenship and education for the 500,000 to 1 million Haitians who live in the Dominican Republic, many in abject poverty. She grew up in a migrant labor camp and led her first march to protest discrimination against sugar cane-cutters as a 13-year-old girl. The RFK Memorial Human Rights Award was established in 1984 by Robert F. Kennedy's daughter, Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, to honor courageous individuals striving for social justice.

Center for Human Cell Therapy Advances New Treatments

At a recent IDI Open Forum, Myriam Armant, Ph.D., provided an update on the progress of the Center for Human Cell Therapy (CHCT) at the Immune Disease Institute. Armant is the CHCT's technical director; Senior Investigator Leslie Silberstein, M.D., is overall director of the center.

The CHCT facilitates bench-to-bedside development of novel cellular therapies for human diseases, with a focus on immunological blood disorders and tissue repair. It solicits applications from investigators who have developed cellular therapies in model systems (February 1, 2007 is the next deadline for submissions). CHCT's goal is to establish and validate laboratory procedures for manufacturing cellular products for clinical use within a 6-18 month period. With FDA approval, the therapies can then move on to rigorous clinical trials in humans.

The CHCT has handled eight projects so far, in various stages of development. According to Armant, two cell therapeutics treating cancer have been tentatively approved by the FDA, and two more therapies are being prepared for FDA review. One of these projects uses mesenchymal cells from amniotic fluid to build tissue patches that would repair holes in the diaphragms of infants. Current treatments use Teflon patches and require multiple surgeries as the child grows.

The CHCT is an NIH-funded, collaborative venture between IDI, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, Children's Hospital Boston, and Massachusetts General Hospital. The center's Translational Cell Therapy Laboratory (TransLab) is located at IDI's facility at 800 Huntington Avenue. For more information, see www.chct.org.

Seminar Series Update

Through IDI's Seminar Series, an impressive lineup of scientists gave talks at the Institute from November 2005 to January 2007. Presenters included Todd Golub, a leading researcher on the genetics of cancer; Bing Lim, who spoke about Micro RNAs in Embryonic Stem Cells, and Philip Zamore, a leader in RNA interference research. In addition, Adriano Aguzzi, chair of the department of pathology at the University Hospital Zurich, gave the annual Edwin J. Cohn Lecture (named for IDI's founder) on The Molecular Biology of Mammalian Prions. The lab of Senior Investigator Klaus Rajewsky, M.D., organized a microsymposium on immune regulation, featuring esteemed scientists from Columbia University and the National Jewish Medical and Research Center.

MacPherson Research Fund Award Goes to Wagner

Senior Investigator Denisa Wagner, Ph.D., is the first recipient of an annual award from the Robert W. MacPherson Research Fund. The award, funded at $13,750, is designated to support Wagner's research on the blood-brain barrier (which protects the brain from pathogens) and its relationship to Alzheimers disease and stroke. The Wagner lab seeks to understand how blood vessel inflammation in the brain could lead to vessel malfunction, such as permeability in the blood-brain barrier, which in turn may accelerate neurodegeneration. Robert W. MacPherson is a former trustee of the Immune Disease Institute; his family established the research fund at IDI in his name.

Trustee Alert: The next meeting of the Board of Trustees will take place on March 27, 2007 in New York City.