Johns Hopkins Gazette: January 6, 1997 Form

In Brief

Mfume featured speaker at MLK commemoration

Kweisi Mfume, former congressman and chair of the Congressional Black Caucus who gave up his seat to take the reigns of the troubled NAACP, will be featured speaker at this year's Martin Luther King Commemoration on Jan. 15. The program will be held from noon to 1:30 p.m. in East Baltimore's Turner Auditorium.

The King commemoration is an annual university event honoring the life and accomplishments of the slain civil rights leader. In addition to Mfume's speech, 11 members of the Hopkins community will be honored for their volunteer efforts with Martin Luther King Awards for Community Service. The awards are given each year to individuals who have demonstrated the same spirit of volunteerism and citizenship that characterized the life of Dr. King.

The program will open with a special performance by the Unified Voices, a Hopkins musical group based in East Baltimore.

Mfume (whose name is pronounced Kwah-EE-see Oom-FOO-may) has close ties to Hopkins. In addition to representing Maryland's 7th Congressional District--which includes large parts of Baltimore-- for 10 years, Mfume is a Hopkins alumnus, graduating with a master of liberal arts degree from the School of Continuing Studies in 1984.

In December 1995, Mfume resigned his congressional seat to become president and CEO of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, one of the nation's oldest and most prestigious civil rights organizations. In recent years, the Baltimore-based group had been riven by internal dissension and alleged financial mismanagement. Mfume was widely considered one of the few leaders commanding the respect and national recognition needed to rescue the organization.

A respected speaker who has spent more than a dozen years in radio, Mfume for the last three years has hosted local and national television shows. He is expected to address the significance of King's legacy nearly 30 years after the civil rights leader and Nobel laureate was shot dead on the balcony of a Memphis, Tenn., motel.

Seating for the event at the Turner Auditorium is limited to employees of the university and hospital, and to other invited guests. Overflow will be directed to the Tilghman Room in Turner, where the proceedings in the auditorium will be televised. They will also be broadcast live, by satellite, to 218 Maryland Hall on the Homewood campus.

Medical News

New cat allergy vaccine developed

A new cat allergy vaccine developed at Hopkins could control allergic reactions in less time and with less risk of serious side effects, according to an article published in the December issue of the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine.

The new vaccine, called ALLERVAX CAT, reduced allergy symptoms faster and with far fewer injections than traditional allergy shots in a joint study by researchers at Hopkins and the New England Medical Center. The vaccine was developed by Hopkins researchers and the Massachusetts-based ImmuLogic Pharmaceutical Corporation, which funded the trial.

"Traditional allergy shots inject water and extracts from allergens like cat dander or pollen," said professor of medicine and researcher Phil Norman. "This vaccine only injects very specific parts of cat allergens selected for their ability to favorably stimulate the immune system."

Vaccines are based on the idea that the proteins in allergens contain parts known as epitopes that stimulate the immune system. Separated from the rest of the protein, these epitopes interact with immune cells in a positive manner, causing a series of reactions that makes future allergic attacks less likely. But because the epitopes are given as part of the whole protein in traditional allergy shots, the shots take a long time to work and sometimes trigger allergic reactions.

"If we're correct, this could make vaccines a superior approach for controlling many allergies," Norman said.

A trial of a two-week ALLERVAX CAT injection program is currently under way. Further studies also are planned to clarify how long the vaccine's effects last and how often follow-up injections are needed. If all goes well, Norman said, ALLERVAX CAT may be available in allergy clinics in several years.

African nations see role for men in reproductive health

Seventeen African nations signed a joint declaration affirming the importance of men's participation in reproductive health and in the health of women and children at a five-day conference held Dec. 1-6 in Harare, Zimbabwe.

The Africa Regional Conference on Men's Participation in Reproductive Health was sponsored by a number of African and international agencies, including the Johns Hopkins Population Communication Services Project and the United States Agency for International Development. Conference participants discussed new approaches to increase men's participation in reproductive health issues.

The 66 participants, representing 17 nations of sub-Saharan Africa and donor agencies, signed a manifesto declaring, in part, "reproductive health is neither "men's" nor "women's," but requires participation of both. Communication must ensure that both men and women are reached with information and enabled to access services which meet their varied needs."

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