Oliver Smithies, Excellence Professor of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine, received the 2007 Nobel Prize for work that has fundamentally changed the science of genetic medicine and potentially will help millions of people live healthier lives. He was one of three recipients of the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine. Smithies was chosen for his role in introducing gene modifications in mice using embryonic stem cells. More than two decades ago, Smithies co-discovered a technique to introduce DNA material in cells, mirroring a natural process. This gene targeting led to Smithies’ lab producing the first animal model of cystic fibrosis. Today, scientists around the world use these techniques to produce mice that model heart disease, Alzheimer’s, diabetes and cancer.
Chancellor Holden Thorp and Nobel Laureate Oliver Smithies were named charter fellows of the National Academy of Inventors, a nonprofit organization that recognizes investigators who translate their research findings into inventions that benefit society. Inductees of this prestigious group demonstrate a spirit of innovation and help bring to market inventions that make a tangible impact on quality of life, economic development and the welfare of society. The 98 innovators represent 54 universities and nonprofit research institutes. Together, the inaugural class of fellows holds more than 3,200 U.S. patents.
President Obama selected Barbara Rimer, dean of the UNC Gillings School of Public Health, to chair the President’s Cancer Panel. The panel was established as part of the National Cancer Act, signed by President Nixon in 1971. The three-member panel monitors the development and execution of the activities of the National Cancer Program, and reports directly to the President on barriers to program implementation. Members serve three-year terms, and at least two of the three panel members must be distinguished scientists or physicians. The panel meets at least four times each year, and these meetings are open to the public. Rimer, a behavioral scientist, is the Alumni Distinguished Professor in the department of health behavior and health education.
Two Carolina scientists, Myron S. Cohen and Terry Magnuson, have been elected to the Institute of Medicine, the health and medicine branch of the National Academy of Sciences. Announced at the institute’s annual meeting in Washington, D.C., Cohen and Magnuson are among the 70 new members and 10 foreign associates elected tin 2012. Cohen and Magnuson push UNC-Chapel Hill’s total number of institute members elected from a variety of health-related disciplines since 1979 to 22.
Cohen, J. Herbert Bate Distinguished Professor of medicine, microbiology, immunology and epidemiology, focuses on understanding the transmission and prevention of transmission of HIV, with emphasis on the role played by STD co-infections. He conducted landmark studies related to the biology of HIV transmission and use of antiretroviral agents for prevention.
Magnuson, Sarah Graham Kenan Professor, focuses on the role of mammalian genes in unique epigenetic phenomena such as genomic imprinting and X-chromosome inactivation. The lab also studies the tumor suppressor role of the BAF/PBAF chromatin remodeling complexes and has developed a novel genome-wide mutagenesis strategy.
David Nicewicz received a Packard Fellowship for Science and Engineering worth $875,000 over five years. He is UNC’s third winner of the award, which supports highly innovative professors early in their careers.
Anthropologist Patricia McAnany was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship to support her research. McAnany is the Kenan Eminent Professor of Anthropology in UNC’s College of Arts and Sciences. McAnany’s proposed book project is “Heritage without Irony: Transcultural Dialogue at a Busy Intersection.” As an archaeologist, she has conducted field research and cultural heritage programs throughout the Maya region, and she co-founded the UNC program, InHerit: Indigenous Heritage Passed to Present.
Nine scientists from UNC-Chapel Hill have been elected fellows of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the world’s largest general scientific society. That’s the largest number of AAAS fellows UNC has ever had in one year; the University now has 67 association fellows.
Carolina faculty members have brought distinction to North Carolina and the University through their academic and professional achievements. Many have been honored with election as members of the National Academies or fellows of other national distinguished learned societies. UNC-Chapel Hill boasts 35 members of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences; 20 members of the Institute of Medicine; 5 members of the National Academy of Engineering; 11 members of the National Academy of Sciences; and 67 fellows of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.
Joseph DeSimone, Chancellor’s Eminent Professor of Chemistry, was recently was elected into the National Academy of Sciences, one of the highest honors that a U.S. scientist or engineer can receive. He is the 12th UNC-Chapel Hill faculty member to be elected to the academy, a private organization of scientists and engineers dedicated to advancing science and technology and their use for the public good.
DeSimone also founded discoveries resulting in a successful spin-off company, Liquidia Technologies. Now the company is at the forefront of efforts to use nanotechnology to tackle diseases and has received a $10 million investment from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Liquidia Technologies will use the foundation’s equity investment to support the development and commercialization of safer and more effective vaccines and therapeutics. Liquidia uses PRINT (Particle Replication in Non-wetting Templates) technology — a technique invented in DeSimone’s UNC lab — to manufacture precisely engineered nano- and microparticles with control over size, shape and chemistry. It could advance the development of vaccines to prevent diseases, such as malaria, that mainly affect people in the developing world.
David W. Pfennig, a faculty member in the UNC-Chapel Hill Department of Biology since 1996, has been appointed the Caroline H. and Thomas S. Royster Distinguished Professor for Graduate Education. The appointment is for a three-year term. In his new role, Pfennig directs the Royster Society of Fellows, the UNC-Chapel Hill Graduate School’s most selective fellowship program. Pfennig has given more than 100 scientific presentations at local, state, national and international conferences and also at area public school events. He has served as a principal investigator on numerous National Science Foundation-funded research grants.