Friday, April 5, 2013

Leadership changes at the Transplantation Biology Research Center

LEADING THE WAY: From left, Turka, Sachs and Madsen

After more than two decades of leading the MGH Transplantation Biology Research Center (TBRC), David H. Sachs, MD, is stepping down from his role as director. He will remain, however, an active member of the team as scientific director. Joren C. Madsen, MD, DPhil, and Laurence Turka, MD, have been named co-directors of the center.

Sachs established the TBRC in 1991, and it since has grown into a 50-person group of researchers and physicians who collaborate across disciplines to advance the science of transplantation, as well as MGH’s clinical transplantation tolerance program. The transplantation tolerance protocol includes transplanting bone marrow cells from an organ donor in conjunction with the organ transplant. The goal is to induce the recipient’s body to eventually accept the transplanted organ without the need for life-long immunosuppressive drugs, which can have debilitating side effects. While the protocol is still considered experimental, the center is focused on working with MGH transplant clinicians to make it a mainstream option in the future.

“I hope this will continue to be a center for translational research and clinical applications as we advance the tolerance program,” Sachs says. “I intend to concentrate more fully on my own laboratory work in transplantation biology and xenotransplantation and continue to bring what we are doing in the lab to the transplant clinicians and ultimately to our patients.”

The TBRC, which is part of the Transplant Center, works closely with the Bone Marrow Transplantation Unit of the Department of Medicine. Madsen and Turka plan to continue to grow and strengthen this relationship, as well as develop new relationships with experts in related fields – including molecular biology, cellular immunology, infectious disease, autoimmunity, regenerative medicine and cancer. “My hope is to build upon the tremendous accomplishments that the TBRC has achieved in the last 20 years and expand upon them, taking advantage of new advancements as they arise in order to make tolerance transplantation a reality for more patients,” says Turka. 

Madsen, who will remain in his current role as director of the MGH Transplant Center, credits Sachs for his mentorship, his dedication to the TBRC and for his achievements in tolerance, and says he looks forward to building upon those advancements in the future. “With Larry coming on board, we have arguably the best transplant immunology laboratory in the world – not the country, but the entire world,” Madsen says

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