IRP’s Diana Bianchi Honored for Leading Pediatric COVID Response
Monday, August 29, 2022
When the first reports of COVID-19 came out, infectious disease experts and healthcare providers thought children might be spared its most dire effects. After all, the news reports and health statistics showed that nearly all serious cases occurred in the elderly, people with certain pre-existing conditions, and those who spent their days and nights caring for COVID patients. However, as case counts rose and disruptions in daily life grew, the medical and psychological effects of COVID on children became apparent — and the impact was alarming. It soon became clear that something had to be done to understand the disease's effects on infants, children and teens, as well as pregnant women and traditionally underserved communities.
It was, appropriately, Mother’s Day when then-NIH Director Francis Collins sought help from Diana W. Bianchi, M.D., Director of the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) and a senior investigator in the National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI). An expert in infant health and genetic conditions like Down syndrome, Dr. Bianchi was just the person to initiate large-scale studies across the country to assess the severity of COVID in specific populations, the safety and efficacy of vaccination and treatment, and the impact of mitigation efforts such as masking. For this critical leadership, Dr. Bianchi was named a finalist for the 2022 Samuel J. Heyman Service to America Medal for COVID-19 Response.
IRP’s Mary Carrington Elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences for Insights Into Immune System Variations
Wednesday, August 10, 2022
Some people never seem to get sick, while others catch a new bug of some sort every other week. Humans are immensely variable both in their capacity to shrug off illness and in the ways their bodies respond to medical treatments. IRP senior investigator Mary Carrington, Ph.D., has spent her entire career exploring the biological roots of these differences, and the discoveries she has made earned her election to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences earlier this year.
Government Awards Recognize H. Clifford Lane’s Four Decades of Research Achievements
Wednesday, July 27, 2022
The remarkable career of H. Clifford Lane, M.D., might have gone very differently if a NIH scientist hadn’t accidentally eavesdropped on Dr. Lane’s conversation with a colleague in 1979. After hearing Dr. Lane mention that he had missed the deadline to apply for a position at NIH, the NIH researcher made some calls and discovered a spot there had just opened up — one that was perfect for Dr. Lane, who would spend the ensuing decades conducting life-saving research to understand and combat some of the world’s most dangerous infectious diseases.
Now the Clinical Director at the National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Disease (NIAID), Dr. Lane has been named a finalist for the 2022 Samuel J. Heyman Service to America Medals’ Career Achievement Award in recognition of his crucial contributions to the fight against HIV/AIDS, Ebola, COVID-19, and other illnesses. Also known as the “Sammies,” the awards recognize federal employees who are “breaking down barriers, overcoming huge challenges, and getting results.”
Nursing Research Leader Sheds Light on How Neighborhoods Influence Health
Monday, April 4, 2022
When you think about public health, city planning might not be the first thing that comes to mind. Yet where we live — the quality of the buildings, the availability of places to walk and play safely, and the types of schools and stores in the neighborhood — can profoundly affect our health. This relationship has been emphasized by the COVID-19 pandemic, as close, stuffy living conditions, the need to take public transportation to essential jobs, and inequities in access to testing and vaccination sites all contributed to the larger reduction in life expectancy for Black and Latino Americans compared to Caucasians over the last two years.
Shannon N. Zenk, Ph.D., M.P.H., R.N., F.A.A.N., Director of the National Institute of Nursing Research (NINR), was elected to the National Academy of Medicine in 2021 for her research into how neighborhood characteristics affect the health of residents and contribute to the health disparities seen between communities with different racial and ethnic makeups and different levels of income.
Groundbreaking Immunotherapy Research Revolutionizes Cancer Treatment
Monday, October 25, 2021
Like many young boys, IRP senior investigator Steven A. Rosenberg, M.D., Ph.D., initially believed he would grow up to become a cowboy, a dream he shared with his older brother, Jerry. That plan changed after World War II ended and stories began coming out of Europe about members of his family who had perished in concentration camps.
“I just became so upset about the evil that people could perpetrate on one another,” he recalls. “Right then and there, I knew I wanted to do the opposite. I wanted to do things that would help people, and I developed almost a spiritual desire to become a doctor.”
He ultimately did become a doctor, and his pioneering research into how cancer interacts with the immune system has led to treatments that are reducing suffering for many people with cancer. In recognition of this groundbreaking work, Dr. Rosenberg was awarded the HHS Secretary’s Award for Distinguished Service in August 2021. The highest honor given by the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), the award celebrates excellence in leadership, ability, and service.
Brigitte Widemann Recognized for Pioneering Work on Debilitating Disease
Wednesday, August 18, 2021
Getting diagnosed with a serious illness as an adult can be devastating, so one can hardly imagine the impact of receiving such news as a child, particularly when the disease has no good treatments. Until recently, this was the case for many children with the potentially severe and frequently disfiguring condition neurofibromatosis type 1 (NF1). However, pioneering research led by IRP senior investigator Brigitte C. Widemann, M.D., led to the first-ever drug approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to treat the condition. For this groundbreaking work, Dr. Widemann, her IRP research team, and her collaborators outside NIH were named as finalists for the 2020 Samuel J. Heyman Service to America Medals, also known as the ‘Sammies,’ an award that honors exceptional work by government employees.
Kizzmekia Corbett and Barney Graham Recognized for Leading IRP Vaccine Research
Monday, July 12, 2021
At the end of 2019, most people were planning for a typical busy year in 2020. The world was looking forward to the Summer Olympics in Japan, the U.S. was deep into election campaigns, and IRP scientists at NIH’s Vaccine Research Center (VRC) were designing vaccines for several coronaviruses in collaboration with a small biotech company called Moderna.
That all changed on a Saturday morning in early January. Chinese scientists had isolated a new coronavirus that was causing a serious epidemic in China’s Wuhan province and released its genetic sequence to the scientific community around the world. Barney Graham, M.D., Ph.D., director of the VRC’s Viral Pathogenesis Laboratory (VPL), and VRC research fellow Kizzmekia Corbett, Ph.D., dropped everything and immediately began working on a vaccine for the illness that would become known as COVID-19.
Pioneering Genetic Epidemiologist Takes a Global Approach to Fighting Health Disparities
Wednesday, June 16, 2021
IRP distinguished investigator Charles Rotimi, Ph.D., was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences this year in recognition of his pioneering work exploring the health implications of genetic diversity in populations with African ancestry, as well as for globalizing the study of genomics, particularly in African nations. Dr. Rotimi joined NIH in 2008 as the founding director of the Intramural Center for Genomics and Health Disparities in the National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI), which was later renamed the Center for Research on Genomics and Global Health, in part to reflect Dr. Rotimi’s globe-spanning research programs.
Vaccine Research Facilitated Rapid Response to Ebola Outbreak
Wednesday, May 26, 2021
IRP Senior Investigator Heinz Feldmann, M.D., was elected to the National Academy of Medicine (NAM) last year for leading the development of the technology that resulted in the first Ebola vaccine approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and used by the World Health Organization (WHO) to combat the deadly disease. Election to the NAM is considered one of the highest honors in the fields of health and medicine.
As chief of the Laboratory of Virology at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), Dr. Feldmann’s work focuses on viruses like Ebola that cause hemorrhagic fever, a condition marked by fever, weakness, muscle pain, and sometimes bleeding. These highly contagious viruses require specialized laboratories and strict safety procedures to study.
Studies of Blood Stem Cells Stimulate Pioneering Therapeutic Approaches
Wednesday, April 14, 2021
The National Academy of Medicine (NAM), first established in 1970 by the National Academy of Sciences as the Institute of Medicine (IOM), is comprised of more than 2,000 elected members from around the world who provide scientific and policy guidance on important matters relating to human health. Election to the NAM is considered one of the highest honors in the fields of health and medicine and recognizes individuals who have not only made critical scientific discoveries but have also demonstrated a laudable commitment to public service.
IRP Distinguished Investigator Cynthia E. Dunbar, M.D., was elected to the NAM last year for her pioneering research into hematopoietic stem cells, the cells in bone marrow that develop into oxygen-carrying red blood cells, infection-fighting white blood cells, and clot-forming platelets. Her work has led to valuable insights into the production of those blood cells, called hematopoiesis, and its role in human health. Her discoveries have also resulted in new approaches to treat disease by improving stem cell functioning or manipulating stem cells with gene therapy.