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School of Medicine Faculty Members Win Founders Week Awards

Friday, October 28, 2006

TEACHER OF THE YEAR—Larry Anderson, PhD 

No doubt the systematic dissection of a cadaver leaves a lasting impression on every first-year medical student. As director for the Structure and Development course since 1998, Larry Anderson, professor in the Department of Anatomy & Neurobiology, ensures that his students’ encounter with their first “patient” not only forms a solid foundation for the rest of their medical training, but is also engaging, entertaining and fun. 

“They are anxious, pensive, and they’ve probably never seen a dead body before,” Anderson says. “I want to give them a chance to gain some confidence.” That is no small task for an 11-week course in anatomy, histology and embryology. 

During his lectures, Anderson launches into a gloves-off, hands-on presentation—with props, animation, audiovisuals and his own brand of humor and drama—to help students remember just which artery is which, or what size a “normal” heart should be.

By infusing the latest technology into his continuously evolving course outline, Anderson advances the students’ knowledge beyond what can be seen and felt to learning through multiple imaging modalities. 

“His educational collaborations with the Department of Radiology have resulted in the routine integration of advanced computer-based radiological technology into the study of gross anatomy,” says Calvin Hisley, PhD, assistant professor in the Department of Radiology. 

Anderson, who started teaching anatomy courses in 1978, never imagined he would still be teaching it 28 years later. “Now I realize,” he says, “that I have been able to affect the care of many more patients through teaching our future physicians than I ever would have working on my own.”     

RESEARCH LECTURER OF THE YEAR—Angela Brodie, PhD 

For more than 30 years, Angela Brodie, a professor in the Department of Pharmacology & Experimental Therapeutics and a University of Maryland Marlene and Stewart Greenebaum Cancer Center researcher, has led a far-reaching revolution in the treatment of breast cancer through the practical applications of her research. Her pioneering work in the role of estrogens in breast cancer led to the development of the most important therapy used in breast cancer today: aromatase inhibitors. 

She began her studies on compounds that would block the conversion of androgens to estrogen in the early 1970s at the Worcester Foundation in Shrewsbury, Mass. There she and her husband, Harry Brodie, discovered Formestane (4-hydroxyandrostenedione). After relocating her laboratory to the School of Medicine’s Department of Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics in 1979, Brodie pursued clinical testing of the drug. Her research has been supported through funding from the National Institutes of Health since 1975.

The encouraging results of a small clinical trial in England led to larger trials and the eventual therapeutic use of aromatase inhibitors to fight breast cancer in postmenopausal women. Formestane was released for worldwide use in 1994 and became the first new drug in a decade specifically designed for the treatment of breast cancer. 

“It is rare that one individual can take a drug from the phase of synthesis to ultimate use in patients,” says Richard Santen, MD, professor of internal medicine and associate director of clinical research at the University of Virginia Health System. 

ENTREPRENEUR OF THE YEAR—Alessio Fasano, MD 

“Discovery is to see what everyone else has seen and to think what no one else has thought.” Those words from 1937 Nobel Prize winner Albert Szent Györgyi enjoy a prominent place in the office of Alessio Fasano, a professor in the Departments of Pediatrics, Medicine and Physiology, the director of the Mucosal Biology Research Center (MBRC) and founder of the Center for Celiac Research, which is housed in the MBRC in Health Sciences Facility II. 

That sense of discovery, plus rigorous discipline, a little serendipity and a large dose of luck, is what Fasano—a pediatric gastroenterologist and professor of pediatrics, medicine and physiology at the School of Medicine—credits with guiding him to some remarkable discoveries and accomplishments. 

Fasano moved to Baltimore from Naples, Italy, in 1993 with a scholarship to the School of Medicine’s Center for Vaccine Development. In 2000, Fasano and his colleagues discovered zonulin, a protein that regulates the permeability of the intestine. 

In 2004, Fasano and Blake Paterson, MD, founded Alba Therapeutics Corporation, now headquartered at the UMB BioPark, to transfer the zonulin technology from the lab’s bench top to the patient’s bedside. Fasano resigned as interim chief scientific officer to return to academics full-time. He is now chair of the company’s scientific advisory board. 

Technology developments from Fasano’s laboratory have resulted in more than 150 patents now held by Alba Therapeutics. The company, named the Maryland Incubator Company of the Year in 2006, has completed clinical and human trials of AT-1001, its lead compound. AT-1001 is targeted toward the treatment of celiac disease and other autoimmune illnesses.

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