Remembering Esmail Zanjani, Augustine Perrotta, and more

Esmail D. Zanjani, PhD

Remembering Esmail D. Zanjani (1938 – 2019)

Esmail D. Zanjani, PhD, passed away on October 5, 2019. A pioneer in fetal cell and gene therapy, Dr. Zanjani’s research enabled the first successful in utero hematopoietic cell transplantation of a human patient with X-linked severe combined immunodeficiency.

Dr. Zanjani earned his PhD degree from New York University, with a focus in erythropoiesis. He was then recruited to Mount Sinai School of Medicine, where his research centered on erythropoietin, polycythemia vera, and aplastic anemia. Eight years later, he joined the University of Minnesota School of Medicine. After 10 years in Minnesota, he spent the remainder of his career at the Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Reno, Nevada, serving as the chair of the Department of Animal Biotechnology and Director of the Nevada Genomics Center at the University of Nevada – Reno.

During his career, Dr. Zanjani received many honors and awards, including serving as president of the International Society for Experimental Hematology, editor-in-chief of Experimental Hematology, and as a member on the editorial boards of several journals, including Blood. He published more than 250 manuscripts in peer-reviewed journals.

“While Esmail’s scientific achievements alone are certainly laudatory and undoubtedly earn him an everlasting place at the top of the annals of hematology, it was his compassion and personal touch that left the most permanent mark,” Joao L. Ascensao, MD, PhD, wrote about his colleague and friend. “He was always funny and irreverent. To many, he was not only our colleague, mentor, but above all he will be remembered as a lifelong friend. He will be genuinely missed.”

Dr. Zanjani is survived by three children, five grandchildren, a brother, and many friends and colleagues.

Remembering Augustine L. Perrotta (1938 – 2019)

Augustine L. Perrotta, DO, died on November 24, 2019 at the age of 81.

Dr. Perrotta grew up in the Bronx, where he attended Fordham College. Later, he attended Chicago College of Osteopathic Medicine, graduating with Sigma Sigma Phi honors before interning at Detroit Osteopathic Hospital and completing his internal medicine residency at Oklahoma Osteopathic Hospital in Tulsa. He then completed a three-year hematology fellowship at the University of Washington School of Medicine, followed by a medical oncology fellowship at the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center.

Prior to his retirement, Dr. Perrotta was chair of the Department of Medicine and Chief of Hematology/Oncology at Henry Ford Hospital in Warren, Michigan, for 10 years. He also served as clinical professor of medicine at the Michigan State University College of Osteopathic Medicine.

Throughout his career, Dr. Perrotta served as author, co-author, or senior author on 50 abstracts, articles in peer-reviewed journals, and book chapters. He also published 15 medically oriented short stories in a nonfiction book, A View from the Inside, which covered some of the public and private personalities and characters he had encountered in his personal and professional life.

Dr. Perrotta is survived by his wife of 49 years, Dorothy Ann, their three children, and three grandchildren.

CDC Awards $1.2 Million to States for SCD Data Collection Program

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is providing nearly $1.2 million in new funding to help states collect population-based health data on people living with sickle cell disease (SCD).

Currently, the CDC’s Sickle Cell Data Collection program involves only two states, California and Georgia, but this new funding brings the total to nine. The program’s recipients will gather information and conduct analyses to better understand the needs and improve the health of people with SCD.

Funding awardees and states they will cover include:

  • Duke University, North Carolina
  • Georgia State University, Georgia
  • Indiana Hemophilia and Thrombosis Center, Indiana
  • Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, Michigan
  • Minnesota Department of Health, Minnesota
  • Public Health Institute, California
  • University of Alabama at Birmingham, Alabama
  • University of Tennessee Health Science Center, Tennessee
  • Virginia Department of Health, Virginia

“This new funding expands CDC’s partner network across the country, which will accelerate efforts to ensure sickle cell patients live longer and healthier lives,” said CDC Director Robert R. Redfield, MD.

Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention press release, September 25, 2019.

Samuel Waxman Cancer Research Foundation Awards $1.4 Million

The Samuel Waxman Cancer Research Foundation (SWCRF) has awarded $1.4 million in grants to fund research in differentiation therapy, abnormal gene expression, epigenetic therapies, and aging and cancer.

The SWCRF’s Scientific Advisory Board selected individual research grant recipients for 2019 to 2021, including:

  • Tyler J. Curiel, MD, MPH, University of Texas Health Science Center, for investigating the age effects of T cells, cancer stem cells, and immune checkpoints on cancer immunotherapy
  • Ronald M. Evans, PhD, The Salk Institute for Biological Studies, for exploring farnesoid X receptor as a novel therapeutic agent in colitis-induced colorectal cancer
  • Maria E. Figueroa, MD, University of Miami, for examining the role of age-related reprogramming of KLF6 in hematopoietic cell dysfunction and myeloid malignancies
  • Jan Karlseder, PhD, The Salk Institute for Biological Studies, for researching the regulation of proliferative boundaries by autophagy
  • Ross Levine, MD, Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, for determining the role of somatic clonal evolution in aging, hematopoiesis, and predisposition to malignancies
  • Joel Neilson, PhD, Baylor College of Medicine, for investigating in vivo disruption of a novel translation pre-initiation complex as a putative therapeutic vulnerability for breast cancer differentiation therapy
  • Emmanuelle Passegué, PhD, Columbia University, for exploring autophagy and hematopoietic cell function in aging and leukemia

Source: SWCRF press release, October 18, 2019.