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Judith Campisi to deliver 2017 Gerhard Schmidt Memorial Lecture

The annual Gerhard Schmidt Memorial Lecture,  on its 15th year after it was established in 2002, will be held on September 27, Wednesday, 4 pm at Behrakis auditorium, Jaharis building. The lectureship was established originally by the Department of Biochemistry, now a part of the Developmental, Chemical & Molecular Biology Department at the Tufts University School of Medicine, in memory of Gerhard Schmidt, M.D., to commemorate his life and contributions to the fields of nucleic acid and phospholipid research. 

Gerhard Schmidt, medicine.tufts.edu
Dr. Gerhard Schmidt (source – medicine.tufts.edu)

Dr. Schmidt joined the Tufts faculty in 1940 after migrating to the U.S. from Europe due to the increasingly tense political climate in the 30s. While he was working at the University of Frankfurt, Dr. Schmidt published a seminal paper describing enzymatic processes of deamination. In 1933, when Dr. Schmidt became aware of the Nazis’ intentions of purging “Jewish science” in his department, he fled to Italy. After a series of short-term fellowships took him to Naples, Stockholm and Florence, as well as Kingston, Ontario, New York and St. Louis before coming to Boston (source).  Soon after his arrival, Dr. Schmidt published a milestone paper where he described a novel technique to determine the DNA and RNA quantities in tissues. In 1973, Dr. Schmidt was awarded an emeritus position at Tufts and the same year, he was elected to the National Academy of Sciences. Until he passed away on April 24, 1981, Dr. Schmidt had continued to regularly work in his laboratory despite his poor health in his latter years. Besides being a dedicated and hard-working scientist, Dr. Schmidt was an avid supporter of the arts, particularly chamber music and literature; he was also a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

campisi gero.usc.edu
Judith Campisi, PhD (Source- gero.usc.edu)

This year, Judith Campisi, PhD, will deliver the Schmidt memorial lecture titled “Cancer and Aging: Rival Demons?”. Dr. Campisi is a world leader in the field of aging research, and currently is a professor of biogerontology at the Buck Institute for Research on Aging. Dr. Campisi received her B.A. in Chemistry in 1974 and Ph.D. in Biochemistry in 1979 from SUNY Stony Brook. She did her post-doctoral training at Dana Farber Cancer Insitute, before  moving on to join the Biochemistry Department at Boston University School of Medicine in 1984. From there, Dr. Campisi moved on to Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL) where she headed the Carcinogenesis & Differentiation group, and the Department of Cell & Molecular Biology before taking on the position of co-head of Center for Research and Education on Aging in 1999. 

She is also a member of the SENS Research Foundation Advisory Board (a non-profit that seeks to develop rejuvenation biotechnology) and an adviser at the Lifeboat Foundation (non-profit NGO that wants to harness technological advancements to “save humanity from existential risks”). She is also the co-editor in chief of the scientific journal Aging, a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), and recipient of the Longevity Prize from the Ipsen Foundation and the Olav Thon Foundation prize (source), besides multiple other awards and fellowships. 

Dr. Campisi is mostly known for her work on the role of aging on a variety of disease conditions, including cancer. She has worked extensively on senescent cells and how they may also disrupt normal physiological functions in tissues thus contributing to cancer progression. She has also described the hallmarks of senescence, including the senescence-associated secretory phenotype. She has described her research interests as following – “Aging is controlled by genes and the environment, and poses the largest single risk for developing a panoply of diseases, both degenerative (e.g., Alzheimer’s disease, osteoporosis, cardiovascular disease) and hyperproliferative (e.g., cancer). Why do organisms age, and why do these diseases rise exponentially with age? My laboratory aims to understand the molecular and cellular basis of aging in mammals.” (source)

For more information on her research, check out the following resources – 

Campisi Lab publications, Buck Institute 

Buck Institute CEO Brian Kennedy in conversation with Dr. Campisi

Campisi J, d’Adda di Fagagna F 2007 Nat Rev Mol Cell Biol. Cellular Senescence: When bad things happen to good cells. 

Senescent Cells, Cancer and Aging – Dr. Judith Campisi, SENS Foundation

Harold F. Dvorak, M.D., invited to deliver 11th Annual Jeffrey Isner Lecture

The 11th Annual Isner Lecture is scheduled to be held on Wednesday, November 2, 2016, 4 pm at Behrakis Auditorium in the first floor of the Jaharis building. In keeping with the tradition of inviting speakers who have made significant contributions to the field of angiogenesis-related research, this year’s speaker will be Harold F. Dvorak, M.D., credited with the discovery of the Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor (VEGF). Dr Dvorak’s talk is titled “VPF/VEGF, Angiogenesis and Stroma Formation: The Tumor Vasculature as Therapeutic Target”.


About the lectureship & Dr. Jeffrey M. Isner

The Jeffrey M. Isner, M.D. Endowed Memorial Lectureship was established in 2007, in honor of Dr. Jeffrey Isner, a graduate, and later, a faculty member, of the Tufts Medical School. This lectureship is meant to provide an opportunity to bring the Tufts medical and biomedical communities together to “ to reflect upon and consider the pioneering work of Dr Jeffrey Isner.” The lectureship also invites a keynote speaker, chosen from the internationally recognized pioneers in clinical and/or basic science research communities focusing on angiogenesis-related research, vascular biology and cardiovascular medicine.

Dr. Jeffrey M. Isner, Source - Tufts Medical School website
Dr. Jeffrey M. Isner, Source – Tufts Medical School website

Dr. Isner was a pioneer himself, as evidenced by his profession as an interventional cardiologist, a nascent medical field at that time. He is also known for his novel therapeutic approaches, such as combining gene therapy and angioplasty to treat blocked blood vessels in patients. While treating a patient in 1994 for a blocked vessel in the leg, Dr. Isner and his team coated the angioplasty balloon with genes to express VEGF in an attempt to observe whether the VEGF protein would be able to promote the growth of new blood vessels that would bypass the blocked artery. While clinical gene therapy applications were still years away, his attempts and results were deemed promising by his peers. Dr. Isner was also actively involved in bringing his approach to the market – he was a founder and a major stockholder in the company Vascular Genetics, based in North Carolina. Not surprisingly, his involvement in the industry resulted in some critics to suggest that this could affect his medical judgement, suggestions that were rejected by Dr. isner. In 2000, the FDA suspended research carried out by the company and St. Elizabeth’s on the grounds of possible improper reporting on death of patients enrolled in the trial. However, in Spring of 2011, his research was allowed to resume and he was additionally awarded a $10 million dollar grant. (Nagourney 2001)


Dr. Isner, who passed away at the age of 53 from a cardiac arrest in 2001, is survived by his wife, Linda Hajjar, and his three children – Joshua, Jessica and Matthew. His motivation to bring novel therapies for cardiovascular diseases from the lab to the clinic stemmed from his will to make a difference, as he said in an interview in 1998 – “… the thing that really motivated me more than anything else is a sense that I don’t want to feel that I was just kind of passing through during this lifetime. I do not want to be just one more person that came and left. I always wanted to do something that could make a little difference.” (Ferguson 2001).


Fun fact – Dr. Isner had a walk-on role in “Seinfeld”, thanks to his friendship with Larry David, the show’s co-director, co-producer and a chief writer.


About the Speaker

Dr. Harold F. Dvorak. Source - www.bidmc.org
Dr. Harold F. Dvorak. Source – www.bidmc.org

This year the Isner Lectureship steering committee has invited Dr. Harold F. Dvorak, MD, Professor of Pathology, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center,  to deliver the keynote lecture, a choice that is befitting to honor Dr. Isner’s memory given that Dr Dvorak is internationally recognized for his discovery of VPF in 1983, later known as VEGF, and his contributions on understanding tumor vasculature. His work on the role of VEGF secreted by tumors led us to the understanding of tumors as wounds that cannot heal, but are able to sustain themselves by promoting growth of blood vessels (Ribatti 2007). This discovery opened up a whole new facet of tumor biology and a host of potential new avenues for cancer therapeutics. To this date, Dr. Dvorak and his team are working on understanding angiogenesis in tumors to the greatest detail and developing anti-angiogenic therapy for cancer treatment.


Sources –

7th Annual Tufts Neuroscience Symposium & William Shucart Lecture, 2015

Guest Post by Michaela Tolman

On Thursday October 8th, the Neuroscience Department hosted its 7th annual Neuroscience Symposium and William Shucart Lecture. The daylong event brings together neuroscience enthusiasts from the entire Tufts community, including the Departments of Neurosurgery, Psychiatry and Neurology as well as the basic science departments of Tufts University School of Medicine. The day is filled with talks celebrating the cutting edge of neuroscience research and stimulating conversations. The final lecture of the day honors William Shucart, MD. With nearly 200 people in attendance, the 2015 Symposium was a great success.

This year, Dr. Thomas Biederer of the Neuroscience department served as symposium director. Invited speakers included Dr. QiuFu Ma from Dana-Farber/Harvard Medical School: “Spinal circuits transmitting mechanical pain”, Dr Scott Soderling from Duke University Medical Center: “Actin badly – cytoskeletal drivers of neuropsychiatric disorder”, Dr. Elly Nedivi from MIT: “Structural dynamics of inhibitory synapses”, Dr. Pavel Osten from Cold Spring Harbor Laboratories: “Automated analysis of functional and anatomical circuits in the mouse brain”, and Dr. Christina Alberini from New York University: “Molecular mechanisms of memory consolidation and enhancement”. Students and post docs had the opportunity to meet the speakers in small groups during lunch and talk more in depth about their research and experiences.

The day concluded with Dr. Gordon Fishell from New York University giving the 2015 William Shucart Lecture on his work in the field of interneuron development. Dr. Philip Haydon, chair of the Neuroscience Department, describes in his welcome Dr. Shucart’s contribution to the Neuroscience Department, “…William Shucart, MD, who at that time was chair of Neurosurgery, recognized the importance of basic Neuroscience and was unwavering in his support for the formation of our Department. It is only fitting therefore that the last lecture recognizes his important contributions.” Previous Shucart Lecturers include Dr. Martha Constantine-Paton, Dr. Karl Deisseroth, and Dr. Mark Schnitzer to name a few. More information can be found on the Symposium website at http://medicine.tufts.edu/Education/Academic-Departments/Basic-Science-Departments/Neuroscience/Neuroscience-Symposium-and-Shucart-Lecture and the Neuroscience Department’s Facebook page.

Attendees at the 7th annual Neuroscience Symposium, 2015
Attendees at the 7th annual Neuroscience Symposium, 2015


Michaela Tolman is a Neuroscience PhD Candidate in the Yang lab, studying astrocyte maturation and functional development. She is also the current President of the Sackler Graduate Student Council.