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Dr. Harvey S Penefsky (1926 - 2017)

SubbianIt is with great sadness that I report the passing of our PHRI friend and colleague Dr. Harvey S Penefsky (age 92). Harvey was a highly admired and beloved PHRI faculty member for more than 40 years, and a giant in the fields of Bioenergetics and Enzyme Kinetics. Harvey, who often dressed in a tie, white shirt and jacket, always displayed a calm, distinguished and unassuming demeanor that belied his scientific brilliance. He was a Chicago native who served in the Army. He obtained a BA from New York University (NYU) in 1956 and a PhD from NYU in 1960. His thesis work with Efraim Racker (PHRI) and Maynard Pullman (PHRI) on the isolation of the ATPase (F1) factor responsible for oxidative phosphorylation was a key advance for biological sciences (see attached). This work led to the biochemical and kinetic characterization of the ATP synthase and the introduction of enzyme reconstitution studies in the Racker lab. Harvey joined the PHRI staff in the early 1960s. In the 1980s, along with Richard Cross (SUNY Upstate) and Charlie Grubmeyer (PHRI), Harvey’s kinetic insights into the ATP synthase led to a series of landmark papers that transformed our current understanding of the mechanism of the ATP synthase. This elegant kinetic work (involving non-steady-state kinetics) explained how electrochemical energy is used during the formation of ATP by the ATP synthase. It determined that ATP is formed in catalytic sites on the F1 complex from bound ADP and Pi with virtually zero change in free energy and that the major requirement for energy in oxidative phosphorylation is for the release of product ATP from high affinity catalytic sites. This conformational coupling work was pivotal for Paul D Boyer, who received the 1997 Nobel Prize for elucidating the enzymatic mechanism of the ATP synthase. (Many people in the field believed that Harvey should have shared in that award.) Harvey was active well into his 80s until his health waned. Dr. Zia Penefsky, his wife of 61 years, died in 2015. In addition to PHRI. Harvey was a faculty member of SUNY Syracuse from 1988-1996, and a member of the NJMS’ Department of Microbiology and Molecular Genetics from 2002-2007. To most, Harvey was a science luminary whose biological insights and brilliance will live forever in textbooks. As a PHRI colleague, he was a kind hearted and wonderful friend.
He will be missed by all.

David S. Perlin
Executive Director and Professor
Public Health Research Institute

Theobald Smith Society “Young Investigator Award” for PHRI Faculty

SubbianDr. Selvakumar Subbian, Assistant Professor at the Public Health Research Institute (PHRI) of New Jersey Medical School (NJMS) has been awarded the “Young Investigator Award” for 2017 by the Theobald Smith Society (TSS). This award recognizes the scientific achievements of young investigators in the junior stages of their career, working in either academics or industry. TSS is a branch of American Society for Microbiology (ASM). The candidate for TSS awards are nominated primarily by senior scientists and/or research directors to recognize exceptionally qualified people. More details about TSS can be found at www.asmbranches.org

Dr. Subbian’s research at PHRI encompasses studies of human infectious diseases using in vitro and animal models to better understand host immune responses, particularly in tuberculosis. His research is supported by funds from NIH/NIAID, Gates Foundation and by NJHF.

NIH R01 Grant Awards for PHRI Faculty

KochDr. Chaoyang Xue at PHRI received a new NIH R01 grant entitled “The role of inositol in Cryptococcus biology and pathogenesis.” The grant studies Cryptococcus neoformans, a deadly fungal pathogen that exhibits pronounced neurotropism: it is the leading cause of fungal meningitis. How C. neoformans cells traverse the blood-brain barrier (BBB) to infect the central nervous system (CNS) remains poorly understood. Dr. Xue’s group identified inositol, one abundant metabolites in the brain, as a host factor to promote fungal virulence during CNS infection. The goal of this grant is to obtain a detailed understanding of the mechanism by which C. neoformans acquires and utilizes host inositol to establish human brain infection. The grant proposes to 1) define inositol sensing and metabolic pathways required for modifying fungal cell surface structure; 2) characterize the mechanism of inositol-mediated promotion of C. neoformans BBB crossing and CNS infection; and 3) define the transcriptional circuits regulating inositol-dependent processes during cryptococcal brain infection. Together, these studies will elucidate a novel contribution of a brain metabolite, inositol, to the development of life-threatening fungal meningitis. As such, these studies promise to provide substantial insight into mechanisms by which pathogens cross the BBB and establish CNS infections.

Two other PHRI faculty were also awarded a new NIH RO1 grant. Dr. Barry Kreiswirth received a grant for his studies describing “The molecular basis of the carbapenem resistance epidemic.” This grant relates to Carbapenem resistant Klebsiella pneumoniae (CRKp) which is epidemic in New York City hospitals and is now also reported globally. CRKp infections present a major clinical challenge often resulting in poor therapeutic indices; however, the epidemiology and molecular basis driving the epidemic remains poorly understood. The studies proposed in the grant are designed to decipher the nature of an expanding epidemic, both from a local/global epidemiological and biologic perspective, and identify genetic and/or phenotypic traits catalyzing this epidemic. PHRI investigator Dr. Neeraj Chauhan has received a NIH R01 grant for his work “The Candida albicans acetylome in fungal virulence.” The grant includes Dr. Karl Kuchler, Medical University of Vienna, as a Co-investigator. The goal of the proposed research is to define the role of protein acetylation in C. albicans pathogenesis, with a long-term objective of identifying new drug targets for antifungal therapies. Lysine acetylation is a well-established major mechanism of regulating protein function, and lysine acetylases have been shown to play important roles in many cellular processes. However, while C. albicans contains several conserved lysine acetylases, their functions in fungal morphogenesis and virulence have remained unexplored. The main objective of this grant is to identify and characterize both histone and non-histone target genes of a paradigm acetyl transferase, Hat1 at the genome scale, and to investigate its role in regulating ncRNA processing in C. albicans. The proposed research will provide fundamental insights into C. albicans pathogenesis and virulence, potentially laying the foundation for new antifungal therapeutic strategies.

  08.04.17   www.cdc.gov: CDC invests more than $200 million to help states respond to infectious disease threats
  07.10.17   www.mdlinx.com: WHO warns of imminent spread of untreatable gonorrhea
  06.28.17   www.mdlinx.com: Update: Pharmacy exec tied to 2012 US meningitis outbreak gets 9 years in prison
  06.21.17   nytimes.com: What Killed Half a Million Indians?
  05.08.17   finance.yahoo.com: Ancient, giant viruses are being unearthed in Arctic ice that's at risk of melting
  04.03.17   www.cnn.com: 'Patient zero': The misunderstood stories of how disease spreads

  08.16.17   Faculty positions in infectious diseases research available at the Public Health Research Institute/Rutgers University, Newark NJ. For details, please visit this link.
  05.16.17   The American Society for Clinical Pharmacology & Therapeutics selected Dr. Christopher Vinnard as a new member. His member profile will be highlighted in the June 2017 issue of Clinical Pharmacology and Therapeutics. For more details, please visit www.wiley.com.

  04.05.17   Dr. David Perlin submitted a letter To the Editor on a recent article in the New York Times entitled "The Real Threat to National Security: Deadly Disease" by Michael Osterholm and Mark Olshaker published on March 24, 2017. His letter can be viewed at www.nytimes.com.

To read the original New York Times article, click here.


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