Nelson Cardiovascular Research Lecture

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Victor J. Dzau, MD

"Genetic Manipulation of Cardiovascular Therapeutics: What are the Opportunities and Limits?"
Thursday, June 14, 2001
University of Mississippi Medical Center, Room R153

Victor Dzau

Dr. Victor J. Dzau is the 10th Hersey Professor of the Theory and Practice of Physic (Medicine), established in 1791 as the first professorship at the Harvard Medical School. He is also chairman of the Department of Medicine at Brigham and Women's Hospital, and physician-in-chief as well as director of research.

From 1995-96, Dr. Dzau was the Arthur L. Bloomfield Professor and chairman of the Department of Medicine at Stanford University, Stanford, Calif. Prior to this, he was the William G. Irwin Professor of Medicine, chief of the cardiovascular medicine division and director of the Falk Cardiovascular Research Center at Stanford University.

Dr. Dzau is a U.S. citizen who was born in Shanghai and raised in Hong Kong. He received his BS and MD from McGill University in Montreal, Canada, and obtained his postgraduate training at Harvard Medical School where he was a faculty member until 1990.

He has a distinguished record of scientific and academic accomplishments. He is one of the nation's most pre-eminent cardiovascular scientist-clinician and has devoted his career to the discovery of molecular and genetic mechanisms of diseases and to the translation of these fundamental discoveries to clinical applications. His pioneering research in cardiovascular medicine includes the isolation of the proteins and subsequently the molecular cloning of genes that cause hypertension (high blood pressure), coronary artery disease, and congestive heart failure.

These seminal contributions have contributed significantly to the development of drugs (e.g. ACE inhibitors) that lower blood pressure, treat heart failure, and prevent coronary heart disease. Recently, he and his colleagues invented a method to genetically engineer vascular bypass grafts that become resistant to atherosclerosis and graft failure, as demonstrated in experimental studies and in an early clinical trial.

Currently, he is also developing other novel gene therapy strategies to treat coronary heart disease. These discoveries may result in important breakthroughs for the future treatment of heart disease.

For these seminal discoveries, he has received many honors and awards, including the Established Investigator Award of the American Heart Association; Goldblatt Award for Cardiovascular Research from the Council of High Blood Pressure Research of the American Heart Association; William N. Creasy Award in Clinical Pharmacology from the Burroughs-Wellcome Fund; Distinguished Scientist Award of the American College of Clinical Pharmacology; National Institutes of Health MERIT Award; and the Louis and Artur Lucian Award for Research in Circulatory Disease. He has been elected to membership of prestigious and distinguished societies, such as the Association of American Physicians, Association of Professors of Medicine and the Institute of Medicine, National Academy of Science (USA).

Dr. Dzau has an important record of public and professional services. For almost two decades, he has served in advisory and leadership capacities for the National Institute of Health (NIH). Since 1998, he has been a member of The Advisory Committee to the Director of NIH. In addition, he has served on many NIH committees, including Atherosclerosis Hypertension and Lipid Metabolism, Molecular Genetics of Hypertension and Atherosclerosis, Future Directions of Hypertension Research; Strategies to Understand Genetic Factors of Heart, Lung and Blood Diseases; and the Special Strategic Advisory Committee (SPARK) for National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute (NHLBI). He has been appointed as chairman of many NIH committees, including the Subcommittee on Basic Science, the NHLBI Task Force in Hypertension, chairman of the NHLBI Cardiovascular Diseases Advisory Committee, and Co-chairman of the Special Emphasis Panel on Cardiovascular Diseases. He has also served as an expert consultant for the NHLBI Evaluation of Specialized Centers of Research in Hypertension, a member of the monitoring board of the Family and Genetic Studies of Cardiovascular Disease (Family Heart Study), and the steering committee of the NIH Genetic Determinants of Hypertension/ Family Blood Pressure Study.

Most recently he was a member of the National Institutes of Health working group on the Oversight of Gene Therapy that developed new policies and guidelines to enhance protection of human subjects in the gene transfer research. Earlier this year, he also participated as a member of the Government Performance and Results Act Assessment Working group of the NIH to review and develop a report to be submitted to congress with NIH's budget justification.

He also has played leadership roles in many professional societies. Through these activities, he has shaped and influenced the fields of cardiology, hypertension, vascular biology and internal medicine. He is considered the "father" of vascular medicine - a discipline that he pioneered almost 20 years ago to provide specialized care for patients with vascular disease. He founded the Society of Vascular Medicine and Biology, The Journal of Vascular Biology and Medicine and the multidisciplinary Vascular Center concept that is now broadly adopted in medical centers throughout the country. He successfully led an effort at the American Heart Association (AHA) to bring together disciplines of arteriosclerosis, thrombosis and vascular biology into a single scientific council for which he served as founding vice-chair in 1998, and then as chairman in 1999-2000. For these and many other leadership activities, he was awarded AHA's 1997 Special Recognition Award, the 1999 Scientific Council Distinguished Achievement Award and the 2000 Eugene Drake Award.

His most recent leadership role is serving as founding editor-in-chief of Physiologic Genomics for the American Physiological Society in order to spearhead efforts translating human genome data to the understanding of function and disease.

Dr. Dzau has achieved a renowned international reputation. Aside from numerous invitations to deliver honorific and named lectureships as well as plenary speeches, he has been asked by international societies and foreign governments to evaluate, advise and organize biomedical research and healthcare programs. For example, he has just been invited to serve in the Advisory Council of the newly established Canadian Institutes of Health Research (analogous to the NIH in the United States). He has been on multiple advisory boards, organizing committees of international organizations e.g. he is on the Advisory Board of the Cape Town Heart Center, South Africa, etc.

In recognition of his contributions and achievements, he has been awarded the Upjohn Chair from the University of Antwerp in Belgium, the Commemorative Gold Medal from the Ludwig Maximillian University in Munich in Germany; Hatter Award from Hatter Institute of University College, London and University of Cape Town, South Africa, etc. He has received honorary degrees from University of Rio de Janiero, Brazil, and University of Cordoba, Argentina. He has been elected to Academia Sinica (National Academy of Science) of the Republic of China, and has been conferred Honorary Fellowship by the Royal College of Physicians (Glasgow), and he was the first Honorary Fellow of the Hong Kong College of Cardiology (together with Gov. Christopher Patton), and is also a Honorary Fellow of the Royal Society of Medicine, United Kingdom.

Dr. Dzau is actively involved with developing strategies to enhance academia-industry collaborations. He serves as science adviser to pharmaceutical and biotechnology industries. He understands the importance of entrepreneurship and the role of industry and commercialism in the development of novel diagnostic and therapeutic modalities. He has served on numerous scientific advisory boards (SAB) as well as board of directors of private companies. For example, he has chaired SAB's for Merck Sharp and Dohme, Bristol Meyers Squibb, Norvatis and Pfizer- Parke Davis, etc. He is a member of the Board of Directors of Genzyme Corp. He chairs the SAB for CV Therapeutics (a biotechnology company), and is a member of the SAB and/or Board of Directors for Cardiogene AG, Atherogenics Inc., MD Vista Inc., and other startup biotechnology companies. He holds seven patents and founded Corgentech and Clingenix to develop gene therapy and pharmacogenics respectively.

As Asian-American, he is particularly interested in understanding and improving health disparities among underrepresented ethnic and racial populations. He has been the keynote speaker in many conferences addressing this issue including most recently at the 2000 Asian-American Health Conference: Challenges for the New Millennium. He is a role model for Asian-American students, physicians and researchers. For his contributions, he has been recognized with the Annual Distinguished Award, Chinese Hospital Board of Trustees and Medical Staff, San Francisco; the Distinguished Physician Award of the Chinese American Physicians' Society; and the First Distinguished Asian American Award (shared with Dr. David Ho), Federation of Chinese American and Chinese Canadian Societies.

Dr. Dzau's overall leadership skills as scientist, physician, administrator, and visionary should be evident from the many key academic positions to which he has been appointed. Currently, he holds one of the most prestigious chairs of medicine in the world and is the director of research in one of the nation's leading research institutions. He is a member of the Board of Trustees of many health care and academic institutions including Partners HealthCare System, Brigham and Women's Hospital, Stanford University Health System and the Harvard Clinical Research Institute.

Because of his broad interests in science, medicine, health, and society, he has been invited to participate in wide-ranging activities such as the Jury for the Olympic Prize of the International Olympic Committee; the Lemelson-Massachusetts Institute of Technology Prize for Invention and Innovation; and for the Warren Alpert Foundation Prize, etc. He is truly a visionary, a leader and an outstanding physician and scientist. Last year, at the invitation of Mayor Steven Goldsmith, Dr. Dzau served on a three-member committee that developed a "white paper" on biomedical research for the George W. Bush presidential campaign.