Johns Hopkins Gazette: October 20, 1997

Mette Strand Known
For Studies Of
Parasitic Diseases

Mette Strand, a pioneering scientist who helped apply the techniques of molecular biology to the study of parasitic diseases and a leading educator of young researchers, died Oct. 10 in her native Denmark of cancer. She was 60. Her funeral was held on Oct. 18 in Denmark.

Strand, professor of pharmacology and molecular sciences at Johns Hopkins, devoted much of her research to the prevention of schistosomiasis, a debilitating parasitic disease that affects 200 million people worldwide. Through studies of how the immune system responds to the parasite that causes the disease, Strand was able to single out several promising candidates for a schistosomiasis vaccine, and in recent years had started evaluating the most promising vaccines in animal trials to refine them for eventual human testing.

Strand consulted regularly with health agencies in countries where schistosomiasis is prevalent, particularly Japan and Egypt. She also served on advisory boards for numerous national and international agencies, including the National Cancer Institute, the National Institutes of Health, the U.S. Agency for International Development and the World Health Organization.

In recognition of her contributions to the study of parasitic diseases, the American Association for the Advancement of Science elected her a fellow in 1989.

Her work also produced key insights into the neurological damage caused by HIV and into a group of carcinogenic viruses known as RNA tumor viruses. She also pioneered the use of immune system antibodies to kill tumor cells, studies that are now being clinically applied by one of her former students.

In 1990, Strand became a full professor.

"She was one of only 19 women in 1,200 Hopkins faculty to have a full professorship at that time," notes Catherine DeAngelis, vice dean for academic and faculty affairs.

Strand directed the Pharmacology graduate program for 15 years and served as an adviser to several other graduate training programs.

"Both as a program director and as a mentor to Ph.D. candidates and postdoctoral fellows, she helped shape the careers of countless students at the East Baltimore campus," says Thomas August, director of Pharmacology and Molecular Sciences. "As a director and an adviser, she was very interested in the welfare of her students, but she also demanded that they strive for high standards of intellectual achievement and scientific integrity."

To honor her, the Hopkins Pharmacology Department has created a memorial Web site,, where tributes or remembrances can be posted.

A memorial seminar is also being established that will highlight advances in schistosomiasis research. In lieu of flowers, Strand's family asks that donations be sent to the seminar at: The Mette Strand Memorial Fund, c/o the Department of Pharmacology and Molecular Sciences, Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, 725 North Wolfe St., Baltimore, Md. 21205.

Strand was born in Kolding, Denmark, and received her doctorate in biochemistry from the University of Copenhagen. She began her U.S. research career at the University of California- Berkeley in the 1960s, moved to the Department of Molecular Biology at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in 1970, and joined the Hopkins faculty in 1977.

Strand retained her Danish citizenship and maintained close ties to her family in that country. She is survived by two sisters, Birgit Kjaer-Petersen and Jytte Bryde Andersen; a brother-in-law, Knud Kjaer-Petersen; and several nephews, all of Denmark.
--Michael Purdy

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