In Memoriam

Pediatrics’ Editor Presents Inaugural Dr. Lee Worley Memorial Lecture February 4

Register now for the inaugural Dr. Lee Worley Memorial Lecture on Thursday, February 4, which will begin with a reception at 5 p.m., followed by a lecture by Lewis First, editor-in-chief of Pediatrics, the journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics, at 6 p.m. at the Mailman Center auditorium on the Miller School of Medicine campus.

The lecture series is named for the longtime Department of Pediatrics faculty member who passed away in 2015. First, who is also professor and chairman of the Department of Pediatrics at the University of Vermont, will discuss the “Future of Pediatrics: Can This Patient Be Saved?”

Registration is required at 305-243-3956 or pediatrics.med.miami.edu/advancement/rsvp.

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Memorial Service for Longtime Miller Center Fellow Eugene Rothman to Be Held November 10

Celebrate the life and accomplishments of the late Eugene Rothman, senior fellow at the University of Miami’s Sue and Leonard Miller Center for Contemporary Judaic Studies, on Tuesday, November 10, at 4 p.m. in the Miller Center Auditorium, 105 Merrick Building, Coral Gables campus.

Rothman, who was also associate director of academic development for the George Feldenkreis Program in Judaic Studies and worked tirelessly on such projects as a Holocaust Survivor Support Internship Program and a Study Abroad initiative in Israel on the theme of Jewish peoplehood, passed away on September 26. He was 73.

To RSVP for the memorial service, call 305-284-6882 or email ccjs@miami.edu.

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Colleagues Remember Distinguished Researcher and Educator Eckhard Podack

Eckhard Podack

Eckhard Podack

During his long and distinguished career as a cancer researcher at Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, Eckhard Podack, M.D., Ph.D., made a series of scientific discoveries pointing the way toward more effective treatments for lung cancer, infectious diseases and disorders of the immune system. The renowned professor and Chairman of the Miller School’s Department of Microbiology and Immunology, Podack passed away on Thursday, October 8, at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota.

“Our loss is substantial, not only of a friend who we adored and shared wonderful memories with, but also of a colleague whose talent was akin to those who have received the Nobel Prize,” said Pascal J. Goldschmidt, M.D., Senior Vice President for Medical Affairs and Dean of the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, and CEO of UHealth, the University of Miami Health System.

A fellow in the Alliance for Cancer Gene Therapy, Podack was widely respected around the world for his pioneering laboratory studies and dedication to finding better treatments for cancer patients and patients with severe infections, such as HIV and listeriosis. In the past four decades, Podack wrote or contributed to more than 305 professional articles, books and monographs.

“This is a sad loss to Eckhard’s family, his colleagues, his department, the School and basically to all of humanity from his unfinished work,” said Karl L. Magleby, Ph.D., professor and Chair of the Department of Physiology and Biophysics.

A native of Germany who became interested in cancer research at an early age, Podack joined the Miller School in 1987 and became department Chairman in 1994.

Diana M. Lopez, Ph.D., professor of microbiology and immunology and Director of the department’s Undergraduate Program, invited Podack to Miami to speak about his research in 1985 after meeting him at two scientific conferences.

“You could tell immediately how brilliant he was,” she said. “Our faculty was very impressed, especially our Chair at the time, Dr. Wayne Streilein. He was charged with building our immunology program, and he thought it was a momentous achievement that we were able to attract a scientist of Eckhard’s caliber to Miami. He was doing translational work here before anyone else. When Wayne left to go to Harvard in 1994, Eckhard succeeded him.”

Together Lopez and Podack recently introduced a highly successful new undergraduate course that he had created called Innate Immunity.

“He was passionate about teaching,” Lopez said, “and we had 102 students sign up for the first course. He taught it, and the students loved it. He was just as passionate about his research, and before he died he was very excited about a new project he was beginning. Eckhard especially enjoyed helping young scientists start their career. He was not only a brilliant scientist, but also a very nice man. He is going to be irreplaceable.”

“Eckhard was an exceptional educator who was loved by his students, faculty and staff,” said Sylvia Daunert, Ph.D., Professor and Lucille P. Markey Chair of the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, and Associate Director of the Dr. John T. Macdonald Foundation Biomedical Nanotechnology Institute. “He was also dedicated to turning scientific discoveries into effective clinical treatments.”

In the early 1990s, Podack created a monoclonal antibody to seek out and attach to CD-30, a receptor on lymphoma cells. He sold the technology to Seattle Genetics, which developed SGN-35, a therapy designed to target only cancer cells, leaving healthy tissue alone.

Podack also discovered Perforin-1 and, more recently, Perforin-2, antibacterial proteins that help the body’s immune system defend against infectious disease. One of Podack’s last published studies, “Perforin-2 is essential for intracellular defense of parenchymal cells and phagocytes against pathogenic bacteria,” appeared online September 24 in the eLife Sciences Journal. He was the lead author of the Miller School study.

“Eckhard’s work on immune therapies for cancer, and the killing of microorganisms with the Perforin family of proteins that he discovered, will have a long-lasting impact on our fellow humans,” Goldschmidt said.

Another of Podack’s accomplishments was developing a novel lung cancer vaccine using gp-96, a heat shock protein, to treat non-small cell lung cancer, which accounts for 85 percent of all lung cancers. For these patients, surgery and chemotherapy are often the only options, so this treatment will fill a substantial need.

While conventional vaccines are used to prevent infectious diseases, Podack’s treatment revs up the immune system to produce T cells and natural killer cells to fight the cancer. He also developed tumor necrosis factor receptor (TNFR) 25 agonists and antagonists that allow the immune system to attack cancer cells more effectively.

In order to translate his discoveries into clinical treatments, Podack launched Heat Biologics in 2008 to develop “ImPACT” (Immune Pan-Antigen Cytotoxic Therapy), a proprietary cell-based immunotherapy for use in the treatment of a wide range of cancers. Heat Biologics completed a successful initial public offering in 2013, and continues to develop its leading-edge therapy.

Podack earned his medical degree from Johann Wolfgang Goethe University in Frankfurt, Germany, in 1968, and his doctoral degree from Georg-August University of Göttingen, Germany, in 1972. He also completed a postdoctoral fellowship in biochemistry in 1974 at Georg-August University.

He joined the Department of Immunology at the Research Institute of Scripps Clinic in La Jolla, California, in 1974. A decade later, he joined New York Medical College as professor of microbiology and immunology, and also became professor of medicine, before moving to Miami in 1987. Since 2009, he was also a guest professor at Shandong Gallo Institute of Virology at Shandong Academy of Medical Sciences in Jinan, China.

“Eckhard was a giant in his field, and his work will continue to advance through his outstanding colleagues in the Department of Microbiology and Immunology, at Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center and beyond,” Goldschmidt said. “We want to extend our sincerest condolences to Eckhart’s beloved wife, Kristin, and the entire Podack family.”

The Miller School will schedule a celebration of Podack’s life in the near future.

Donations in his memory may be made to:
Partners in Health: https://donate.pih.org/give-today
Florida Grand Opera: http://tickets.fgo.org/contribution/index.aspx
FGO donations should be designated for Mainstage Productions as a Memorial Gift in the name of Dr. Eckhard Podack.

Posted in In Memoriam, NewsComments Off

Eugene Rothman, Miller Center Senior Fellow, Passes Away

UM News

Eugene Rothman

Eugene Rothman

CORAL GABLES, Fla. (October 2, 2015) — No job was ever too difficult for Eugene Rothman. During his ten-year stint as a senior fellow at the University of Miami’s Sue and Leonard Miller Center for Contemporary Judaic Studies, he worked tirelessly on some of the center’s most demanding projects—from a Holocaust Survivor Support Internship Program to a Study Abroad initiative in Israel on the theme of Jewish peoplehood to the development of new courses for UM’s Judaic studies program.

“He was a most creative, entrepreneurial, and honest academic,” said Miller Center director Haim Shaked. “He was kindhearted and a giver.”

Rothman, who touched the lives of countless students, faculty, and administrators during an academic career that spanned more than five decades, passed away on Saturday, September 26. He was 73. Read the full story

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Engineering Professor Emeritus Moiez Ahmedali Tapia Remembered as ‘Champion of Religious Tolerance’


Moiez Ahmedali Tapia

Moiez Ahmedali Tapia, professor emeritus in the College of Engineering’s Electrical and Computer Engineering Department who chaired UM’s Islamic Center for many years, passed away September 3.

“Dr. Tapia was a lifelong champion of religious tolerance and understanding in the community, devoting countless hours promoting interfaith peacemaking efforts,” Shihab Asfour, professor and chair of Industrial Engineering, recalled fondly. “His students and his family were his consuming passion, always caring and compassionate for all he encountered.”

A member of the Electrical and Computer Engineering Department for 35 years, Tapia joined the faculty in 1967 and served as associate department chair in 1987. He was a three-time recipient of the college’s Alexander J. Orr Excellence in Teaching Award.

Born in Surat, India, he received his B.E. from the University of Poona in 1960, his MS.E.E. from the University of Illinois in 1962, and his Ph.D. from the University of Notre Dame in 1966. His first academic appointment was as an assistant professor the Georgia Institute of Technology, where he taught from 1966-67 and again from 1968-72.

The author of six books and more than  75 refereed professional journal articles and presentations, Tapia concentrated his research on multivalued calculus and accuracy of computation and data mining.

In addition to UM’s Islamic Center, Tapia served as chairman of the Universal Heritage Institute and was a member of the board of directors of the Urban League of Greater Miami and of the Jewish Arab Dialogue Association (JADA). He is survived by his wife, Farzana, and numerous family members, including several nieces and nephews. His burial service was conducted the day after his passing at the Muslim Cemetery in Hialeah Gardens.




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