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Editor: Philip Tang, A&S '95
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Lee Hood could well be the Bill Gates of medicine.
|Lee Hood wants to see medicine "personalized, predictive, and preventive."||
Consider: Armed with keen vision, supreme confidence, and
eagerness to defy naysayers, Gates and Microsoft
spearheaded a global shift to low-cost personal computing.
For his part, Hood — a pioneer in the Human Genome
Project, molecular biology, and biotechnology — is
pushing to make medicine "personalized, predictive, and
preventive," as well as affordable for people even in poor
Within a decade, Hood believes, each of us will be able to have our DNA mapped at a cost of less than a thousand dollars. But not merely mapped — interpreted, too, in ways that reveal what diseases we're susceptible to or already beginning to develop. From a microdroplet of blood, measurements will be made on thousands of proteins that will provide a window into health and disease for each individual. Within two decades, he foresees the advent of "preventive" medicine, in which designer drugs ward off diseases, allowing people to live and work for 10 or 20 years longer than today.
Hood's futuristic vision is backed by past success. During the 1980s, he led the development of automated DNA sequencers, machines that allowed scientists to map, in a single day, as many "rungs" on the double-helix ladder as manual sequencing charted previously in an entire year. Nobel laureate James Watson, co-discoverer of DNA's structure, has called Hood's sequencer "the workhorse of the [Human] Genome Project." And yet when Hood developed his first conceptual prototype, he took it to 19 biotech companies — and got turned down by all 19. Undaunted, he founded Applied Biosystems to produce the machine, as well as a series of ever-faster successors.
Johns Hopkins played an early but pivotal role in Hood's biomedical odyssey. Setting out to understand human disease, he initially planned simply to spend two years cherry-picking courses in some willing medical school. Instead, he enrolled in a three-year MD program that Hopkins offered at the time. In this program he took a complete set of clinical clerkships. "Most of what I study today emerged from my medical school experiences at Hopkins," Hood says, "especially my interests in immunology and cancer." After medical school, he earned a PhD in biochemistry at California Institute of Technology, and after a three-year stint at NIH he later joined Cal Tech's faculty.
Besides developing gene sequencers there, Hood studied mechanisms of immunologic diversity — research that in 1987 earned him a Lasker Award, often an early precursor to a Nobel. He also authored scores of scientific papers, earned a fistful of patents, and began creating spin-off companies, including Amgen, Systemix, Darwin, and Rosetta.
In 1992 Bill Gates gave $12 million to the University of Washington, expressly to lure Hood to Seattle to create the first cross-disciplinary department of molecular biotechnology. That department became one of the world's best at inventing new technologies and computational tools, but Hood's inner entrepreneur grew restless. In 2000 he bolted from the ivory tower; he and two colleagues created the Institute for Systems Biology to pioneer new systems approaches to both biology and medicine.
The institute has developed new technologies in genomics and proteomics and has published landmark papers on systems biology and systems medicine. As ISB's president, Hood heads a staff that has grown to 170, including immunologists, oncologists, molecular biologists, geneticists, mathematicians, computer scientists, engineers, physicists, and veterinary technicians (who wrangle the mice and other animal models used to study diseases and test therapies). ISB's funding, currently around $26 million a year, comes from government and foundation grants and other philanthropy. In October 2005, the Gates Foundation awarded ISB a $10 million challenge grant to recruit faculty and fund research.
And then there's education. Half a dozen ISB staff members develop new approaches to K-12 science "inquiry-based" learning, which Hood considers crucial for tomorrow's scientists. The institute has established programs to provide science training to more than a thousand Seattle- area elementary and middle-school teachers, and ISB is creating a textbook in systems biology for undergraduates and medical students. True to its systems-biology roots, the text treats organs and organisms as interrelated networks or systems of genes, rather than as isolated components — systems that get perturbed by diseases; systems that can be protected against perturbations.
Educational outreach isn't just altruism; it's crucial to Hood's vision of making 21st-century medicine personal, predictive, and preventive. "The systems approach to biology is going to enable a systems approach to disease," he says, "and this allows a transformational approach to medicine. Who's going to take this and run with it, to create not only a new way of doing medical research, but an entirely new approach to training medical students? That's the challenge — for Hopkins, and for every other medical school." — Jon Jefferson
A picture may be worth a thousand words, but as Bob
Rothgaber will tell you, in Canada, it's worth three
million 51-cent stamps.
This isn't the first time Rothgaber's photo has garnered attention. The same image has long graced the cover of the lacrosse how-to classic Lacrosse: Technique and Tradition, written by Bob Scott, A&S '52, former Blue Jays coach and retired Johns Hopkins athletics director. The book, originally published by the JHU Press in 1976, has sold more than 40,000 copies over the last three decades and is coming out in a new edition this fall (see story).
Rothgaber even helped Scott come up with the title. "I told Scotty, 'Personally, I do not like titles with a colon, but if you feel the need to use a colon, you should limit yourself to two or three words, like Lacrosse: Technique and Tradition,'" he recalls.
Rothgaber, a retired Baltimore school teacher, former paratrooper, and an amateur photographer, refers to his photo-inspired stamp as a "personal triumph," but humbly claims that "the impetus for the stamp was Bob Scott's book, not my picture."
Indeed, stamp designer Yakobina's quest for the quintessential lacrosse photo led him to Scott's primer. But it was the cover that caught the designer's eye. That image — a frenetic moment in time captured by Rothgaber more than 30 years ago — was precisely the inspiration that Yakobina needed.
"We feel this stamp is a fitting tribute to the Championships and the sport — and to all the people involved in it," says Alain Leduc at Canada Post in the organization's quarterly magazine, Canada's Stamp Details. It might have been a good luck charm, too. Canada upset the U.S. 15-10 to win its first world title in 28 years. — Philip Tang, A&S '95
Green Squall, by Jay Hopler, A&S '94 (MA), Yale
University Press (2006).
... The grass was lizarding,
Writers often travel unpredictable and uncommon paths. That's particularly — and literally — true for Matt Gross, who had the enviable task of traversing the globe in 90 days, chronicling his journey in a blog and a series of articles for The New York Times.
In May, he set out from New York City to Lisbon. In August,
he ended his trip with a flight from Beijing to San
Francisco. In between, Gross skipped around the world
carrying his messenger bag, a 28-inch rolling duffel, a
host of gadgets for staying in touch, and a list of
contacts culled from friends and readers.
Sounds sexy, but he wasn't on a three-month, spare-no-
expense lark. Gross is the paper's "Frugal Traveler," which
means he has to operate on a tight budget. And, unlike a
vacation, his time isn't his own.
"I'm on a Greek island right now," he said by phone in June. (He had already driven from Lisbon to Galecia, flown to Barcelona, hopped a bargain flight to Italy, taken a ferry to Croatia, and ridden a bus to Montenegro and Albania.) "I'd be perfectly happy to spend the next three days going to the exact same beach and eating food at the same restaurant. But my perfect vacation is not necessarily the same thing as anybody else's perfect vacation. So I try and do everything. I explore as many of the beaches as possible. It's this sort of constant rush."
Though he didn't set out to be a travel writer, Gross has traveled and written in some form (though generally not about travel) since he was a child. Raised in Massachusetts and Virginia, he moved to England with his family when he was 8 so his father could teach for a year at the University of Sussex. While there, they took a long road trip around the continent. Gross remembers being lost in Lyon and, in the Alps, gazing down dramatic cliffs.
In 1992, Gross came to Hopkins to study math and because "everyone looked really intense," he says. He entered having already taken calculus 3 and linear algebra at William and Mary, but after several more classes he realized that he wasn't good enough to be a mathematician. By the end of freshman year, Gross — who as a sixth- grader had written a story from the point of view of a cockroach stuck in a video game — had switched to the Writing Seminars, where he studied fiction with Jean McGarry, John Barth, and Madison Smartt Bell.
Gross wanted to live in a foreign country after graduation, and decided on Vietnam because of its historical importance (and because he loved the food). After working as an English teacher, then as a writer for Vietnam News, he decided to apply to graduate writing programs. He returned to Hopkins and finished up the one-year program, he says, with a half-finished novel, several new friends, and a feeling that the only way to survive as a writer was to be a journalist.
Gross moved to New York, where he wrote for a TV trade magazine and FoxNews.com before he discovered Chris Bonanos, A&S '90, an editor at New York magazine, using Hopkins-NET, the online alumni directory. By 2001, Gross was freelance copy editing, and he eventually made it onto the staff, editing film and theater critics and writing occasional short pieces.
On the side, he was also writing a novel about Cambodia in the 1950s, and decided to go do firsthand research. He saved up some money, quit his job, and departed for three months in Southeast Asia — only he ended up staying for five. A friend had referred him to the editors of the Times travel section before the trip, but they had turned down his offer to write, saying they already had someone in the region. Then, about a month into his trip, an editor e-mailed asking if he had story ideas.
"I'd been out there long enough that in fact I did," he says.
When he returned to the U.S., they offered him another assignment, then another. Finally, the Times editors hit on the idea of the 90-day trip. He accepted.
With his editors, Gross decided to avoid some destinations, and purposely include others. He also wanted to simply see where the winds would take him. "I can't really narrow it down because in some ways I'm not a very particular traveler," he said mid-trip. "I don't care where I go; I'm just happy to go." — Sara Clemence A&S '96, '98 (MA)
Twenty years ago, Thomas Pecoraro was a rookie cop in
Montgomery County, Maryland, when he responded to his first
fatality. It was a clear, cold night. A group of teenagers
had blown through an intersection and crashed into an
oncoming truck. In an instant, a burly 16-year-old boy,
sitting in back, lost his life. "He was athletic with blue
eyes and red hair," Pecoraro says. "I will never forget
|PELP grads Pecoraro and Starks are public servants — and savvy businessmen.||
Today, Pecoraro and business partner Paul Starks, both
police officers and graduates of Johns Hopkins'
Safety Executive Leadership Program (PELP), are working
to make certain Maryland has fewer traffic deaths.
they plunked down $50,000 in savings to start the I Drive
Smart driving school, staffed by police officers. The
program now operates in Montgomery, Howard, and Frederick
Traffic accidents are a leading cause of death in people between the ages of 16 and 29, Percoraro says. And oftentimes, it is the police who are first on the scene. "We started thinking, Who is better suited to teach about safe driving than police officers?" Pecoraro says.
In 2004, the pair received permission from the Montgomery County Police Department Ethics Committee to employ police officers, certified in driver education, to teach during off-duty hours. That's when they founded I Drive Smart (www.idrivesmart.com).
That first year, the company had five cars, 12 part-time instructors, and a tiny office. About 200 drivers, mostly high school students, graduated. Today, business is booming. The company now has a fleet of 12 cars, 110 instructors, three staff members, and a larger office. This year, I Drive Smart instructors will teach roughly 3,000 people to drive safely. The company also invested in a "skid car" to train more experienced drivers on how to handle a car in dangerous situations.
Pecoraro and Starks both graduated from the PELP program with master's degrees in management. That education, Pecoraro says, gave them the skills and confidence they needed to start their business. "We were able to merge two schools of thought," he says. "It enabled us to take our experience in the public sector and come up with an idea for a private-sector enterprise. Without our Hopkins training, we wouldn't have been able to do this." — Mary Beth Regan
In June, Geir Haarde, SAIS '75, became the prime minister of the Republic of Iceland. The leader of Iceland's Independence Party, Haarde has been a member of parliament since 1987. He previously served as minister of foreign affairs and minister of finance.
Joanna Zeiger, SPH '01 (PhD), won her second Ironman competition at the 2006 Ford Ironman Coeur d'Alene in June. Zeiger swam 2.4 miles, biked 112 miles, then ran 26.2 miles in 9 hours, 31 minutes and 7 seconds. Zeiger, who won her first Ironman in Brazil last year, is the first athlete to hold U.S. National Champion titles in both Olympic and Ironman triathlon distances.
Elizabeth Horton, Peab '06, was crowned Miss North Carolina in June. Horton will compete at the 2007 Miss America Pageant, for which preliminary competition begins this month.
In July, four former Blue Jays competed in the 2006 World Lacrosse Championships in London, Ontario. John Gagliardi, A&S '87, A.J. Haugen, A&S '00, and Kyle Harrison, A&S '05, represented the United States, while Peter LeSueur, A&S '05, played for England.
Harriet Hentges, SAIS '75 (PhD), became Wal-Mart's senior director of stakeholder engagement in July. In the newly created position, Hentges will serve as the company's liaison to environmental and other nonprofit organizations, government agencies, and academic groups. A former nun, Hentges is a conflict resolution specialist with experience in Iraq and the Balkans.
Johns Hopkins hit the road this spring, with a coast-to- coast tour that reached more than 2,000 alumni and friends in six cities. The Knowledge for the World Tour — with stops in San Francisco, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Chicago, New York, and Boston — provided guests with an insider's view of the pioneering work being done by Hopkins faculty, students, and alumni.
These days of discovery — part of a larger effort to reconnect with alumni and friends — featured documentary films highlighting Hopkins' global impact and idea forums with Hopkins experts that explored issues ranging from medical breakthroughs to national security and terrorism.
"The tour was a terrific opportunity to showcase Johns Hopkins and to shine a light on some of the people — faculty, students, alumni, and donors — who help make Hopkins the powerhouse that it is," said university trustee Barclay Knapp, A&S '79, chair of the national tour. "Our hope is that people have come away inspired to help us as we move Hopkins forward."
To see films screened at the event, go to www.johnshopkins.edu/movies.
For podcasts of the idea forums from each city, go to www.johnshopkins.edu/podcasts.
The Johns Hopkins University Alumni Association has more than 40 U.S. chapters and international clubs. Thanks to countless dedicated alumni volunteers, our regional chapter programs are thriving! We are especially grateful to our alumni chapter leaders:
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