Department of Pathology News

#1 in NIH Funding

The Blue Ridge Institute released its 2020 rankings of NIH funding to US medical schools, and the Department of Pathology here at Johns Hopkins is once again recognized as the #1 funded pathology department! This makes our department #1 in NIH funding for 13 of the last 14 years.

In addition, Sharon Nachman, Susan Eshleman, Mary Glenn Fowler, and Shuying Sun were among the top 25 funded pathologists in the US. From fighting HIV in Africa, to cancer in the inner city, our faculty are dedicated to impactful science!

From the BLUE RIDGE INSTITUTE for MEDICAL RESEARCH as compiled by Robert Roskoski Jr. and Tristram G. Parslow:

1Johns Hopkins University$53,165,271
2University of Pennsylvania$45,706,481
3Columbia University Health Sciences$36,980,923
4Stanford University$34,521,386
5New York University School of Medicine $32,908,135
6Emory University$32,115,036
7University of Washington$31,432,233
8Washington University St. Louis$28,113,396
9University of Michigan at Ann Arbor$26,472,281
10Case Western Reserve Univ/Cleveland Clinic Lerner$22,662,684

~February 2021

Congratulations, Dr. Robert Kruse!

Robert Kruse, M.D. Ph.D. Robert Kruse, PGY-3 pathology resident, has been awarded the Physician Scientist Award as a part of the Johns Hopkins Young Investigator Day for his research on non-viral gene delivery methods in the liver for rare diseases. Robert has employed high fluid pressure to mediate naked DNA delivery through the biliary system. The technique has demonstrated around 30-50% of the hepatocytes can stain positive on immunohistochemistry after delivery of a model gene, human Factor IX, into pig liver. This exceeds reported data on adeno-associated viral vectors in human clinical trials, while also being over 100 times cheaper than these viral vectors. Together, these findings suggest the potential for translation of approach, given the similar size organs and anatomy between pigs and humans.

Dr. Kruse will present his work at the at the Young Investigators' Day Program Zoom ceremony on April 6th, 2021.

~February 2021

New Leadership Roles Announcement

Drs. Kevan Salimian and Erika Rodriguez
Please join me in congratulating Kevan Salimian, M.D., Ph.D., and Erika Rodriguez, M.D., Ph.D., for their new leadership roles.

Effective January 1, 2021, Kevan became the Director of Clinical Pathology and the Medical Director of the Laboratories at Bayview Medical Center. Kevan obtained his M.D. and Ph.D. degrees from the University of Pennsylvania, was a resident and then our chief resident here at Hopkins, and completed a fellowship here in GI/Liver pathology. He started on the faculty at Bayview on July 1, 2020.

Effective January 1, 2021, Erika became the Director of Anatomical Pathology at Bayview. Erika received her M.D. from the Federal University of Sergipe (UFS), in Brazil, and her Ph.D. from the University of Sao Paulo Medical School. She started her residency training in Brazil, and then moved to the Mayo Clinic in 2007. Erika completed her residency training here at Hopkins, and joined the faculty on the Broadway campus in 2014 after completing fellowships in Cytopathology and in Surgical Pathology.

We thank Kevan and Erika for their leadership.

Ralph H. Hruban, M.D.
Baxley Professor and Director of Pathology

~February 2021

2021 President's Frontier Award Finalist

Dr. Laura Wood Congratulations Dr. Laura Wood! Johns Hopkins University named her the 2021 President's Frontier Award finalist. This award, in recognition of her "Brilliant and important" pancreatic cancer research, comes with an $80,000 award towards her research.

~February 2021

In Memoriam - Nilabh Shastri, M.Sc., Ph.D.

Nilabh Shastri, M.Sc., Ph.D. It was with great sadness that we learned that our dear friend and colleague Nilabh Shastri, Ph.D., passed away on Friday January 22nd. Nilabh joined our faculty in 2018 as a Professor of Pathology and of Biology, and a Bloomberg Distinguished Professor.

Nilabh was a pioneer in the area of immune surveillance, exploring the molecular mechanisms behind T-cell activation. His research has had a major impact on our understanding of the mechanisms underlying antigen processing and presentation as well as related fields. His publications have been cited over 14,000 times, and many of his discoveries have become textbook materials. Dr. Shastri's scientific accomplishments are noted for their multidisciplinary approaches to solve significant outstanding questions. His research not only used traditional methods of the discipline, but he also devised novel methods to approach previously unresolved problems. His contributions are relevant not only to fundamental immunology, but also bear upon cell biology, biochemistry as well as more clinical areas of autoimmunity and immunotherapy of cancer.

To list a few of his contributions to science:
Nilabh was the first to discover the role of cryptic translation in the antigen processing pathway. He found that translation of alternative mRNA reading frames even without the conventional AUG start codons contributed to the peptide repertoire presented by MHC class I molecules. Because the underlying molecular mechanisms and the role of cryptic translation in immunity were completely unknown, he followed that initial discovery to define the set of non-AUG codons and to show that cryptic translation was a previously unknown translational mechanism.

Nilabh also identified several T-cell stimulating antigen genes that had remained obscure for decades since their original discovery as genetic barriers to transplantation or targets in autoimmune diabetes. These discoveries were made possible by development of the lacZ reporter assay for T-cell activation. This exquisitely sensitive assay allowed Nilabh to screen cDNA libraries and identify the relevant antigen genes by their ability to stimulate T cell responses. These discoveries have garnered much interest as having solved the mystery of minor histocompatibility loci as well as providing targets for intervention in autoimmunity.

Nilabh and his colleagues debunked the dogma that the final antigenic peptides presented by MHC I molecules were produced only in the cytoplasm. These studies provided the basis for the search of the molecular mechanism for endoplasmic reticulum (ER) proteolysis and led to his discovery of ER aminopeptidase associated with antigen processing (ERAAP). The discovery of ERAAP provided the basis for investigating ERAAP's link to various autoimmune disorders such as ankylosing spondylitis and psoriasis. Nilabh further established the importance of ERAAP by determining that ERAAP-deficient mice were unable to elicit protective CD8+ T cell responses and were therefore susceptible to infections. Additionally, he discovered that an innate-like population of CD8+ T cells monitors ERAAP activity, and this monitoring is inhibited in viral infections and tumors as an immune escape mechanism.

Nilabh received a B.Sc. (1972) and a M.Sc. (1973) from Panjab University in Chandigarh India. He earned a Ph.D. from the All India Institute of Medicine Sciences in 1980. He moved to the US in 1981 as a fellow at UCLA. He joined the faculty at the University of California Berkeley in 1987. Nilabh came to Hopkins in 2018. In addition to being a brilliant scientist, Nilabh possessed special personal qualities. He was a gracious and genuine person, a gentle soul and extremely generous and caring. He lives on in the many people he trained and in the many people he touched.

Nilabh is survived by his wife Amita, their daughter Avantika, a son-in-law Lawrence, and seven year old twin grandsons, Aman and Kiran.

In lieu of flowers, the family asks that you consider supporting Nilabh's favorite charity, NPR (and its local stations KQED in the Bay Area and WYPR in Baltimore).

~January 2021

Congratulations, Ava Roberts!

Ava Roberts Ava Roberts, a clinical lab scientist in microbiology lab, has been selected as one of the eight recipients of the Johns Hopkins' Martin Luther King Jr. Award for community service. She volunteers with the Greater Baltimore Urban League since 2006, and enjoys helping middle and high school students prepare for college and careers. As part of the Pathology Diversity Committee, Ava also helps organize Black History Month activities and MLK Day of Service.

Thank you Ava for all your hard work and dedication to our department and to our community.

To read more about Ava Roberts' MLK Community Service Award, please click here.

~January 2021

Resident of the Month

Katelynn Davis, M.D. The Johns Hopkins House Staff Council has selected Katelynn Davis, M.D. as the Resident of the Month for her contributions in Wellness Initiatives. Let us all congratulate Katelynn for a job well done and for representing our department!

Below are some of the anonymous feedback received to support Katelynn's award:

...(she) worked selflessly to improve the quality of resident education

...impart(s) her wisdom and guidance as she sacrifices her time to ensure junior residents are taught

... Katelynn is also one of three Wellness chairs. By organizing in-house events such as Fika, weekly food deliveries or team-building exercises such as historic scavenger hunts, she ensures the general well-being of pathology residents is taken care of."

~January 2021

In Memoriam - Robert H. Heptinstall, M.D.

Dr. Heptinstall with Dr. Fred Germuth Jr.
Dr. Heptinstall with Dr. Fred Germuth Jr.

It is with great sadness that we learned that Robert H. Heptinstall ("Heppy"), the head of the Department of Pathology from 1969 to 1988 passed away peacefully on Tuesday January 5th, at the wonderful age of 100.

Heppy was one of a kind. He was born in Great Britain, and obtained his medical degree from Charing Cross Hospital Medical School in London. He then joined the British Army, where, as part of "Force 136," he parachuted into Thailand to care for freed prisoners of war. After the war, Heppy briefly studied under Sir Alexander Fleming, the discoverer of penicillin. Heppy came Johns Hopkins in 1954 supported by an Eli Lilly Travelling Fellowship. After a brief time at Washington University in St. Louis, Heppy returned to Hopkins, and was named director of the Department of Pathology and pathologist-in-chief of The Johns Hopkins Hospital in 1969. He led the Department for almost 20 years, stepping down in 1988.

Heppy had one of the longest continuingly funded RO1 grants, and made major contributions to our understanding of the link between hypertension and kidney disease and atherosclerosis. He was also a gifted teacher and writer. His magnum opus, The Pathology of the Kidney, now known as Heptinstall's Pathology of the Kidney, and in its 7th edition, is considered the leading textbook on renal pathology.

Heppy was president of American Society of Nephrology from 1972 to 1973; president of the Renal Pathology Society from 1980 to 1983; and vice present of the International Society of Nephrology from 1981 to 1984. He received a gold medal from the Danish Surgical Society; was given the David M. Hume Memorial Award from the National Kidney Foundation; the Jean Hamburger Award from the International Society of Nephrology; and, in 2011, the Renal Pathology Society renamed its lifetime achievement award the Robert H. Heptinstall Lifetime Achievement Award.

A memorial service is planned for after the pandemic ends. In lieu of flowers, the family requests that donations be sent to:

The Robert H. Heptinstall Fellowship Fund
The Johns Hopkins Hospital
Carnegie 415
600 North Wolfe Street
Baltimore, MD 21287

~January 2021

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