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Learn about ISEH award winners – Hal E. Broxmeyer and Iannis Aifantis

Posted By ISEH Headquarters, Saturday, January 21, 2012
Updated: Saturday, January 21, 2012

ISEH, comprised of industry leaders in hematology, immunology, stem cell research, and cell and gene therapy, connects members worldwide for the opportunity to advance scientific knowledge. Each issue of Connections in Hematology & Stem Cells will introduce you to a few of those members. This issue, meet Hal E. Broxmeyer and Iannis Aifantis.

Hal E. Broxmeyer, Ph.D.
Chair, Professor and Scientific Director
Indiana University School of Medicine
Indianapolis, IN, USA

2011 Donald Metcalf Award winner
Established in 1999 in honor of Professor Donald Metcalf, "the father of hematopoietic cytokines," for his pioneering work on the control of blood cell formation, this award recognizes distinguished scientists in the field.

"I met Don Metcalf when I was at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, and I have the greatest respect for him,” Dr. Broxmeyer states. "I was counting my colonies under a microscope and he came up to me and asked, ‘what are you looking at?' He added "those are really nice.' I truly admire him for all the work he did to start the field while still doing bench work throughout his career.”

Dr. Broxmeyer is internationally recognized for pioneering studies on hematopoietic stem cell biology that lead to clinical utility. His publications have been cited more than 27,000 times; 85 of these have been cited at least 85 times (H-factor of 85; 1974-present), with 67 of these cited from 100-1,006 times (as of May 23, 2011).

He discovered that cord blood contained transplantable stem cells (PNAS 1989, NEJM 1989). His laboratory studies on cord blood stem/progenitor quality and numbers, methods for their efficient cryopreservation, and development of the first cord blood bank as proof of principle (PNAS 1989, 1992, 2002) were determining factors in the first five transplants which provided long-term engraftment and led to greater than 25,000 cord blood transplants done to date to treat malignant and non-malignant diseases.

Dr. Broxmeyer demonstrated that antagonizing CXCL12/CXCR4 with AMD3100 rapidly mobilizes stem cells to blood, and enhanced G-CSF induced mobilization (JEM 2005), a clinical protocol now used worldwide. He discovered that inhibiting CD26 peptidase enhances stem cell homing/engraftment (Science 2004) needed when limiting numbers of stem cells are available, studies now being evaluated in the clinic. He established the concept of direct and indirect negative feedback regulation of hematopoiesis by iron-binding proteins, chemokines (JEM 1978, 1981; Blood 1990) and other cytokines, and the in vivo efficacy of growth factors working in synergistic combination (PNAS 1987). Dr. Broxmeyer continues to work to gain mechanistic insight into stem cell function, and with others, and as part of the National Marrow Donor Program (NMDP), and other advisory groups, to enhance the efficacy of cord blood and mobilized adult peripheral blood transplantation.

Microbiology was his initial field of study.

"When I was looking into where to go for my Ph.D., I met a woman that I've now been married to for 42 years,” Broxmeyer recounts. "Beth told me about this new field of experimental hematology. I followed her to New York University and began working in the laboratory doing hematological research.”

Toward the end of his Ph.D. work exploring the means to regulate the release of leukocytes from bone marrow, he got into his current emphasis on stem/progenitor cell biology. A post-doc position at Kingston General Hospital at Queens University in Kingston, Ontario, Canada, was followed by eight years at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center before landing at the Indiana University School of Medicine in Indianapolis, Ind. He is working on how embryonic and induced pluripotent stem cells can be used to better understand hematopoietic stem cell biology.

"I love research; it excites me,” he follows. "I love to be the first one to learn what's going on so I still score some experiments.”

Dr. Broxmeyer is a long-time supporter of ISEH, having attended his first meeting in 1976 and served as president in 1991. He especially likes that the Society is not too big, allowing members to interact easily with one another and form lifelong relationships.

Outside of science, Dr. Broxmeyer has numerous interests including weightlifting, taking long walks with his wife, reading and watching movies when he just needs to relax. From 1994 to 1999, he took one of the top three spots in his age and weight division for Olympic style weightlifting at the U.S. National Master's Weight-Lifting Championships.

"When I was younger, I could clean and jerk 265 pounds, clean and press 245 pounds and snatch 205 pounds in New York City and state competitions at a body weight of about 170 pounds,” he states. "I wish I could still lift these poundages!”

Take a peek at a May 2010 video with Dr. Broxmeyer talking about cord blood banking and transplantation.

ISEH members: Connect with Hal through the ISEH member database. Click here to learn more about him or to build your personal profile.

Iannis Aifantis, Ph.D.
Associate Professor of Pathology
New York University School of Medicine
Early Career Scientist
Howard Hughes Medical Institute
New York, NY, USA

2011 McCulloch and Till Award winner
Established in 2004 in honor of Professor Ernest McCulloch and Professor James Till, this award recognizes junior scientists in the field of hematology and stem cells.

Dr. Aifantis has been on a fast moving train….studying biology, molecular biology and genetics in his home country's University of Crete, Dr. Aifantis then went to the University of Paris for his Ph.D. in immunology. Following his Ph.D., he took his post-doc at Harvard University's Dana Farber Cancer Institute and then had his own lab in the Department of Medicine at the University of Chicago.

He is currently an associate professor of pathology at the New York University (NYU) School of Medicine, co-director of the Cancer Stem Cell Program of the NYU Cancer Institute and an early career scientist at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute.

Dr. Aifantis' laboratory focuses on mechanisms of differentiation and transformation of hematopoietic stem cells and progenitors. More specifically they focus on the molecular mechanisms of both lymphoid (ALL) and myeloid (AML, CMML) leukemia induction and maintenance. Their work has identified and studied novel oncogenes, tumor suppressors and downstream signaling pathways. They have also used these pathways to design molecularly targeted therapeutic protocols that could inhibit the induction or affect the maintenance of the disease. Moreover, the laboratory is studying mechanisms of hematopoietic stem cell differentiation and self-renewal using both genomic and genetic approaches.

"The biggest challenge for a researcher is that you end up realizing that to do science correctly, you will have to try to cover multiple fields and disciplines and that requires extensive collaborative effort,” Dr. Aifantis states.

Dr. Aifantis talked about changes he has seen even in his relatively short career.

"When I started 10 to 12 years ago, you could try to address questions by yourself or within your own laboratory,” he remembers. "That is almost impossible today. Today you must go outside of your lab, outside of your institution and outside of your city to find people who are willing to work together and cover all the different aspects of a project.”

ISEH has been a source of inspiration and collaboration.

"I am inspired by and follow a number of Society members who have done amazing work,” he adds. "And, I'm currently collaborating with some members. I will attend my first ISEH member in Vancouver and look forward to meeting many more colleagues.”

In his Vancouver presentation, Dr. Aifantis will likely cover his most recent findings on transformation of hematopoietic stem cells by epigenetic mechanisms. He'll also address enzymes that affect DNA methylation in myeloid leukemias.

His most recent publication in Nature discusses the origins of a type of myeloid leukemia and states that novel mutations in an intracellular communication pathway called Notch led to the cancer, pointing to a potential new target for treating this disease. Notch was already implicated in T-cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia, but the new research found an unexpected role for it in chronic myelomonocytic leukemia (CMML). Read more in the May 12, 2011 issue of Nature.

Outside of science, Dr. Aifantis points to dining and music as favorite activities.

"I truly enjoy dining, and that is why big cities like New York appeal to me,” he says. "I am always looking for different tastes as well as excellence in food preparation techniques. Music is important to me too. I used to be a DJ when I was younger, and I still follow new trends in music.”

Dr. Aifantis also includes traveling on his list of activities, especially to his home country Greece where his family still resides.

"In our field, our jobs take us to very interesting places,” he recounts.

ISEH members: Connect with Iannis through the ISEH member database. Click here to learn more about him or to build your personal profile.


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