Creator of California Tay-Sachs Disease Prevention Program among the honorees

A mere 40 years ago, parents didn't know they were carriers of the Tay-Sachs disease until after they'd given birth to a child with this fatal genetic disorder.

Today, the disease has been virtually eliminated in the U.S. and Canada among Ashkenazi Jews of Eastern European origin - the ethnic group most likely to carry the recessive genes that caused Tay-Sachs disease - because of genetic screening and outreach launched by Dr. Michael Kaback and others at Los Angeles Biomedical Research Institute (LA BioMed) in the 1970s.

Dr. Kaback created the California Tay-Sachs Disease Prevention Program, an outreach and testing program that spread around the world. It has helped Ashkenazi Jews and other groups at greater risk of Tay-Sachs disease determine whether they are likely to give birth to a child with Tay-Sachs, a disease that is usually fatal within the first 4-5 years of life. Others have used his program as a model to markedly decrease the incidence of another genetic disorder, Thalassemia, in Sardinia and throughout the Mediterranean.

For his leadership in creating the Tay-Sachs Disease Prevention Program and his many other accomplishments, Dr. Kaback will be among the physician-researchers honored at the 2010 LA BioMed Legends event at 6:30 p.m. May 20 at Trump National Golf Club in Rancho Palos Verdes.

The other honorees are:

  • Dr. Stanley Korenman, MD, an endocrinologist who was a member of the Harbor-UCLA Department of Medicine from 1966 to 1970. He served as the founding director of the General Clinical Research Center at LA BioMed.

Today, he is medical director of the General Clinical Research Center at UCLA and professor of medicine and associate dean of ethics at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA.

Dr. Korenman is a world-renowned ethicist and the author of more than 135 peer-reviewed publications and 67 books and book chapters, including the Office of Research Integrity's authoritative publication on ethics for human research.

He founded the MD-PhD program at UCLA and served as the director or associate of UCLA's Medical Scientist Training Program from 1981-2003.

As a researcher, he developed the estrogen receptor assay for human breast cancer that is still used 40 years later to direct choice of therapy. Dr. Korenman also determined the sequence of reproductive hormones characterizing changes in normal menstrual cycles throughout reproductive life into the menopause and characterized gonadotropin and androgen changes in men with aging and their relation to erectile dysfunction.

  • Dr. William Swanson, MD, who was Harbor-UCLA Medical Center medical director and an associate dean and professor of medicine at UCLA School of Medicine from 1967 to 1997. From 1967 to 1997, Dr. Swanson dedicated himself to public service by leading the medical staff at Harbor-UCLA through challenging and rewarding times.

He also served as an associate professor of medicine and associate dean from 1980 to 1997.

Under his leadership - and in partnership with the rest of the executive team - Harbor-UCLA developed one of the nation's leading medical teams and became renowned as one of the best public hospitals in the country.

Dr. Swanson also was instrumental in LA BioMed's development and success. He served on its Board of Directors, as secretary of its Executive Committee and on its Human Subjects and Research committees when LA BioMed was known as the Research and Education Institute or REI. He received the Distinguished Service and Leadership Award from Harbor-UCLA Medical Center in 1993. He is retired.

  • Dr. Lucien Guze, MD, who served as the chief of the Division of Infectious Diseases, Department of Medicine, Harbor-UCLA Medical Center Department, from 1967-1981. He will receive a memorial tribute presented by Dr. Jack Edwards, chief of the Division of Infectious Diseases, Department of Medicine.

Dr. Guze was widely praised as a teacher, receiving the UCLA best teacher award from five graduating classes. He was also renowned for his research into pyelonephritis, an infection of the kidneys and the ducts that carry urine from the kidney. His group developed the first experimental model imitating the human disease which was then used for a wide range of studies.

"We are proud to present a memorial tribute to Dr. Guze and to add Drs. Kaback, Korenman and Swanson to the list of legendary physician-researchers who were integral to LA BioMed's more than half a century of scientific advances and achievements," said David I. Meyer, PhD, LA BioMed President and CEO. "Each honoree has been a leader in his chosen field whose work has alleviated disease and advanced the pace of discovery. Their vision and dedication have made a difference in the lives of countless patients who have benefitted from their care and their research."

Dr. Jennifer Yee, an LA BioMed investigator and pediatric endocrinologist, will also be honored as the 2010 Liu Young Investigator and the winner of the Richard B. Weitzman Memorial Award for Meritorious Research in the Biomedical Sciences.

She is researching childhood obesity and is collaborating with Dr. Mina Desai, who has established several animal models of programmed obesity. Dr. Yee is being mentored by Drs. W.N. Paul Lee and Michael Ross as she seeks to understand how the fatty acid building process can lead to fat cell growth. Her goal is the development of information that could help devise treatments for obesity.

"Dr. Yee is an example of the exceptional young researchers at LA BioMed who will lead it into the second half of the 21st century," said Dr. Meyer. "Her research seeks to increase the understanding of one of the most vexing health care issues: childhood obesity. We are especially pleased to honor her with these two awards to help her continue her vital studies."


The opinions expressed here are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of News Medical.
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