In an annual analysis by Reuters of the top 100 most innovative universities on the planet, the University of Pennsylvania placed fourth in 2017, up from eighth place in 2016. The ranking, compiled in partnership with Clarivate Analytics, is based on proprietary data and analysis of indicators including patent filings and research paper citations.
In a historic move, on Dec. 19, 2017, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved a gene therapy initially developed by researchers at the University of Pennsylvania and Children's Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) for the treatment of a rare, inherited form of retinal blindness. The decision marks the nation's first gene therapy approved for the treatment of a genetic disease, and the first in which a new, corrective gene is injected directly into a patient. The therapy, known as Luxturna (voretigene neparvovec-ryzl), significantly improves eyesight in patients with two defective copies of the gene RPE65—a mutation associated with severe and degenerative visual impairment.
This is the second FDA approval for a University of Pennsylvania/CHOP-developed therapy within six months, following the approval of the personalized cellular therapy known as Kymriah™ for the treatment of advanced acute lymphoblastic leukemia in children and young adults. See expanded coverage of both of these landmark translational research journeys in this issue: Cell-ebration and A Vision, Realized.
The first steel girders are in place for the Pavilion, Penn Medicine's $1.5 billion inpatient tower opening in 2021.
But that's just the tip of the iceberg!
Project will use approximately 16,000 TONS of steel
67,000 erectable pieces of steel
Single heaviest piece delivered: 68.7 TONS
Princeton HealthCare System (PHCS) and its affiliates are now part of the University of Pennsylvania Health System, leaders from both health systems announced on Jan. 9, 2018, after receiving all necessary regulatory approvals. As part of this transaction, the names of PHCS and its affiliates have changed. The system is now Penn Medicine Princeton Health, while its hospital, University Medical Center of Princeton, is Penn Medicine Princeton Medical Center. UPHS CEO Ralph W. Muller described the joining as “an exciting new chapter in Penn Medicine's growth.” It broadens Penn Medicine's reach across the Philadelphia region from Lancaster General Health in south central Pennsylvania, approximately 80 miles west of Philadelphia, to the Princeton system in central New Jersey, approximately 50 miles northeast of Philadelphia.
Penn Joins Coalition to Increase Transparency on Life Sciences Career Prospects
The University of Pennsylvania is one of 10 institutions that announced plans to give would-be life scientists clear, standardized data on graduate school admissions, education and training opportunities, and career prospects. The group, including Cornell, Duke, the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Center, Johns Hopkins, UCSF, and several others, is forming the Coalition for Next Generation Life Science in response to the lack of good marketplace information on training and career options for talented life scientists; many new PhDs focus solely on a limited number of traditional faculty positions. Penn President Amy Gutmann was one of the authors of the article announcing the coalition, in Science in December 2017.
The coalition members will issue statistical reports in an open, standardized format, with information on admission and enrollment, demographics of graduate students, time spent in postdoctoral fellowships, and jobs held by an institution's former graduate students and postdoctoral fellows. Each coalition member has also agreed to help graduate students and fellows better explore alternative career paths such as careers in industry, entrepreneurship, and government; improve mentoring; and work to improve diversity in the life sciences workforce. Because similar academic workforce challenges are applicable to disciplines outside of biomedical science, the coalition's work could extend in the future to graduate education and training in the natural and physical sciences, engineering, the social sciences and the humanities.
Suzane Rose, MD, MSEd
Suzanne Rose, MD, MSEd, a renowned leader in medical education, has been named senior vice dean for Medical Education at the Perelman School of Medicine.
Rose begins at Penn in February 2018. She most recently served as senior associate dean for Education at the University of Connecticut School of Medicine, where she was nationally recognized for spearheading a highly successful curriculum reform effort. She previously held leadership positions at Mount Sinai and the University of Pittsburgh. Rose is a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania, with a Bachelor of Arts in Russian Language and Literature and a Master of Science in Education. She received her medical degree from Case Western Reserve University followed by residency in internal medicine and a postdoctoral fellowship in gastroenterology. Her scholarship has a sharp focus on medical education, crossing the intersecting domains of women's issues in health, undergraduate and graduate medical education, evaluation of educators, and developing the next generation of health care leaders.
“We are thrilled to welcome one of the nation's most talented leaders in medical education to Penn Medicine. Dr. Rose is nationally recognized as an inspirational and collaborative leader with a strong track record of fostering transformative change,” said J. Larry Jameson, MD, PhD, dean of the Perelman School of Medicine and executive vice president of the University of Pennsylvania for the Health System.
Rose will succeed Gail Morrison, MD'71, who remains at the Perelman School of Medicine and is taking on a new leadership role in online education. In thanking Morrison for her more than two decades of leadership and service to the school in medical education, Jameson said, “I am confident that she will once again pioneer important new methods of learning that will have a major impact at Penn and beyond.” A celebration of Morrison's accomplishments and impact in medical education will be held in the spring. More information about her new online education program will appear in the Spring/Summer 2018 issue of Penn Medicine.
Seven University of Pennsylvania faculty members have been elected to the National Academy of Medicine (NAM), one of the nation's highest honors in biomedicine. They are among 70 new U.S. and 10 international members of the globally renowned organization. Five of these seven new members are from the Perelman School of Medicine, bringing Penn Medicine's NAM membership to 66 of the total 2,127 members worldwide.
Lewis A. Chodosh, MD, PhD: His research focuses on mechanisms of cancer progression using basic, translational, and clinical approaches, with an emphasis on preventing and treating breast cancer recurrence. Chodosh is the chair of Cancer Biology, associate director for Basic Science in the Abramson Cancer Center, and co-director of the 2-PREVENT Translational Center of Excellence.
Christos Coutifaris, MD'82, PhD'84: His research focuses on understanding the cellular and molecular basis of human trophoblast function (nourishment supply for the embryo) and abnormal development of the placenta. Coutifaris is the Celso Ramon Garcia Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology and chief of Reproductive Endocrinology and Infertility.
Maria A. Oquendo, MD, PhD: Her research is on the neurobiology and pharmacologic treatment of mood disorders, with an emphasis on suicidal behavior and global mental health. Oquendo is the Ruth Metzler Professor and chair of Psychiatry.
Michael S. Parmacek, MD: He has made key discoveries for understanding the molecular and genetic basis of congenital heart disease, atherosclerosis, aortic aneurysm and dissection, and heart failure. Parmacek is the Frank Wister Thomas Professor of Medicine and chair of Medicine.
Flaura K. Winston, MD'90, PhD'89: Her research includes improving child-passenger safety, preventing teen and young-driver crashes, and addressing post-traumatic stress after injury. Winston is a professor of Pediatrics at the Perelman School of Medicine and the founder and scientific director of the Center for Injury Research and Prevention at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia.
New NAM members from other schools at Penn this year are Therese S. Richmond, PhD, CRNP, FAAN (Nursing) and Dorothy E. Roberts, JD (Law, Arts and Sciences).
Four University of Pennsylvania faculty members have been named Fellows of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. Election as an AAAS Fellow is an honor bestowed upon members of AAAS, the world's largest general scientific society, by their peers. Two of this year's fellows are from Penn Medicine.
Anil K. Rustgi, MD, the chief of Gastroenterology and T. Grier Miller Professor of Medicine and Genetics, was selected for accomplishments in cancer biology, including the identification of a protein located in the cytoplasm of cells, p120 catenin, as a tumor suppressor, and for insights into the tumor microenvironment.
Hongzhe Li, PhD, a professor of Biostatistics, was selected for distinguished contributions to methods in statistical genetics, modeling of high dimensional genomic and metagenomic data, and promotion of statistical reasoning in society.
Fellows will be formally recognized on February 17 during the 2018 AAAS annual meeting in Austin, Texas. New AAAS fellows from other Penn schools are Gustavo D. Aguirre, VMD, PhD (Veterinary Medicine) and Daniel José Mindiola, PhD (Arts and Sciences).
Honors & Awards
Deborah A. Driscoll, MD
Luigi Mastroianni Jr. Professor and Chair, Obstetrics and Gynecology
2017 Leadership Award for an Individual
The Group on Women in Medicine and Science, a professional development group of the Association of American Medical Colleges, honored Driscoll for impact on the advancement of women's roles in academic medicine and science.
Jonathan A. Epstein, MD
William Wikoff Smith Professor of Cardiovascular Research; Executive Vice Dean and Chief Scientific Officer
NHLBI Outstanding Investigator Award
In granting this highly competitive award, the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI) described Epstein as “a gold standard role model for physician-scientists in the field.”
Chantell Evans, PhD
Postdoctoral Fellow, Physiology (Erika Holzbaur Lab)
Hanna Gray Fellow
The Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) named Evans as one of 15 early-career scientists in its first cohort the fellowship that includes up to $1.4 million in funding over eight years, with mentoring and active involvement within the HHMI community.
M. Celeste Simon, PhD
Arthur H. Rubenstein, MBBCh Professor, Cell and Developmental Biology; Scientific Director, Abramson Family Cancer Research Institute
National Cancer Institute Outstanding Investigator Award
The award funds Simon's basic biomedical research on cancer metabolism, specifically renal cancer, which is one of the ten most common cancers in both men and women.
Louis J. Soslowsky, PhD
Fairhill Professor of Orthopaedic Surgery; Associate Dean, Research Integration
H.R. Lissner Medal
The American Society of Mechanical Engineers confers the medal to recognize outstanding achievements in the field of bioengineering; it is widely viewed as the highest honor in the bioengineering community.
“There is hope.”
- Former Vice President Joe Biden
In a moment that went globally viral, former Vice President Joe Biden moved to sit beside Meghan McCain and held her hand as he consoled her over her father's battle with glioblastoma during an appearance on “The View.” Biden pointed to CAR T cell therapy and other ongoing work at the Abramson Cancer Center as reasons for hope in the fight against cancer. Biden leads the Penn Biden Center for Diplomacy and Global Engagement.
The touching moment connecting the family cancer journeys of the Bidens and McCains showed that “cancer doesn't side with any one political party,” Robert Vonderheide, MD, DPhil, director of the Abramson Cancer Center, wrote in the Philadelphia Inquirer soon thereafter. “It has no bias, no ability to discriminate.” Emphasizing that sustained philanthropic and government support is essential to drive the breakthroughs that offer patients hope, Vonderheide called on Congress to reach across the aisle to support medical research funding, inspired by this example of bipartisan humanity and hope.
$2,000 or higher out-of-pocket costs for oral cancer medications were associated with nearly half of patients failing to pick up their prescription, according to a Penn study published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology. Ten percent of patients abandoned prescriptions even when costs were under $10. The researchers emphasize the need for clinicians to discuss financial barriers when planning treatments and for multiple stakeholders to address barriers to patient access.
42 distinct tissue types from over 400 healthy donors are represented in new data generated and studied by the Genotype Tissue Expression (GTEx) consortium, in which Penn is one of four core collaborating institutions. GTEx published a comprehensive atlas of variation in gene expression in Nature and Nature Genetics. The Penn group is focused on finding associations between genetic variation and gene expression in healthy tissue in order to identify mechanisms behind variations involved in disease.
35 providersor more will be involved in the care of each patient in Penn Medicine's new uterine transplant trial. The trial provides a new path to parenthood for women with Uterine Factor Infertility, an irreversible form of female infertility. Participants will work with the multidisciplinary team of specialists for years, from eligibility screening through potentially the Caesarian delivery of up to two children, followed by hysterectomy to remove the transplanted uterus.
3 projects using behavioral economics in mental health service delivery—focused on improving antidepressant medication adherence and the use of evidence-based services for school-aged children with autism and among mental health practitioners—launch the new Penn ALACRITY Center. It is one of two funded by the National Institute of Mental Health.
2 of the key food sources consumed by cancer cells, glucose and glutamine, can be analyzed for their simultaneous metabolism thanks to a new Moonshot grant for imaging research at the Perelman School of Medicine. Researchers at Penn are building a positron emission tomography scanner that can image a patient's entire body at once, including glucose and glutamine, which currently can only be measured in separate scans.
1 single bacterial enzyme called urease could be key to imbalance in the gut microbiome linked to Crohn's disease. A new Penn-led study published in Science Translational Medicine suggests that wiping out a significant portion of the bacteria in the gut microbiome, and then re-introducing a certain type of “good” bacteria that lacks urease, may be an effective approach to better treat these diseases.
Oncology Chief Lynn Schuchter Receives FOCUS Award for Advancement of Women in Medicine
At the Philly Fights Cancer gala in October 2017, Schuchter was honored as an inspiration to cancer fighters across the region.
For Lynn Schuchter, MD, whose career has been dotted with high accolades for her achievements as an oncologist and clinical researcher, the 2017 FOCUS Award for the Advancement of Women in Medicine is one of the most meaningful awards of them all.
FOCUS, a group at the Perelman School of Medicine centered on the advancement and leadership of women in academic medicine, and on research and education in women's health, confers the award annually to a faculty member whose outstanding efforts and achievements have promoted the career success, leadership, and overall quality of life for Penn women in academic medicine.
But in accepting the award, Schuchter turned the tables and credited FOCUS for empowering her to reach for her own leadership potential.
“Without FOCUS, I would never have become the chief of Hematology/Oncology,” said Schuchter, who in addition to being division chief is the C. Willard Robinson Professor of Hematology/Oncology. The group introduced her to role models who were women in leadership roles, and it gave her the courage to consider applying for the position and the confidence to know she could build a strong team to handle the job's novel challenges. She now leads more than 100 faculty who see more than 90,000 patients per year, and she oversees a $25 million research budget, while leading her own robust research in melanoma.
Schuchter was selected for the FOCUS award due to her commitment to and passion for mentorship and for her record of training physicians and scientists interested in both translational and clinical oncology research. Her guidance has helped her mentees obtain international recognition as well as leadership positions of their own. She has also worked to create networking opportunities for women through informal gatherings in her home and through career development sessions for women at the national Society for Melanoma Research. One of her nomination letters summarized her as a “beacon for professional women,” and the FOCUS leadership team added in announcing the award, that she is also “a beacon for all faculty at the Perelman School of Medicine.”
Yet in a fitting coda to some of the very reasons she has served as a role model to so many women at Penn Medicine, she did not attend the FOCUS fall conference event where the award was presented to her; she had a prior commitment to tour colleges with one of her 18-year-old twin sons. She sent her regrets—and her appreciation for the award—in a video message. In that message, Schuchter said she knew that her peers would understand that spending time with family was the right choice to make in this case, and that such choices of balance are an everyday aspect of the professional medical life. At another event this fall where Schuchter was an honoree, the Philly Fights Cancer fundraiser for the Abramson Cancer Center, her sons were in attendance. “I think they feel proud of the work that I'm doing,” she said. “I've shared with them that I hope they find a career as satisfying and nourishing as mine has been for me.”
Schuchter's take: “While I am so excited about the new developments in treatment for patients with melanoma, I am most excited about the work we are doing in implementing the Serious Illness Conversation Guide for all of our Hematology Oncology practitioners. This is a framework for clinicians to explain serious illness, like cancer, to patients so that they have a good understanding of their illness. It also ensures that the clinicians know the goals, values, and priorities of their patients. The goal is to have more, better, and earlier conversations about illness. This is hard work but so important.”
Find more Penn Medicine predictions for 2018 on the Penn Medicine News Blog.
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