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PIONEERING GENETICIST IN AIDS RESEARCH AND FELINE GENETICS TO GIVE TALK ON NOVEMBER 9 AT BARD COLLEGE The Distinguished Scientist Lecture Series Presents Dr. Stephen O'Brien, Chief of the National Cancer Institute's Laboratory of Genomic Diversity

Darren O'Sullivan

ANNANDALE-ON-HUDSON, N.Y.—The Distinguished Scientist Lecture Series at Bard College continues on Saturday, November 9, with a talk by Dr. Stephen O'Brien, chief of the National Cancer Institute's Laboratory of Genomic Diversity. O'Brien is internationally recognized for his research contributions in human and animal genetics, evolutionary biology, AIDS, and species conservation. His talk, "Adapting Genes and Genomes: Lessons from the Felids," is free and open to the public and takes place at 3 p.m. in the multipurpose room of the Bertelsmann Campus Center. Refreshments will be served after the lecture.

"I know of no other scientist worldwide who has the sort of leadership status in multiple fields—virology, HIV/AIDS research, conservation biology, evolutionary biology—that Steve O’Brien has," said Felicia Keesing, assistant professor of biology at Bard. "His intellectual breadth and energy are extraordinary."

A pioneer in feline genetics research and leader of the Cat Genome Project, Dr. O'Brien will discuss his research in mapping the domestic cat genome and its importance in understanding human diseases, such as AIDS, muscular dystrophy, kidney disorder, and retinal degeneration. Cats and people have roughly the same number of genes, and the line-ups of particular feline and human genes are remarkably alike on 16 chromosomes.

Dr. O'Brien has been chief of the Laboratory of Genomic Diversity (formerly Laboratory of Viral Carcinogenesis) at the National Cancer Institute (NCI) since 1986. Among his accomplishments are the mapping of more than 100 human genes, including scores of cancer oncogenes; development of the domestic cat gene map as a model for comparative genome analysis; discovery of the remarkable genetic uniformity of the African cheetah; solving the century-old riddle of the giant panda's evolutionary history; discovery of the epidemic prevalence of feline immunodeficiency (AIDS) virus among wild cat species; and analysis of the human gene CCR5, mutations of which strongly affect HIV-1 infection and AIDS progression. His group has now identified eight distinct human genetic variants that influence the outcome of exposure to HIV.

Dr. O'Brien is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the Explorer's Club, and the Cosmos Club. He has served as president of the NCI Assembly of Scientists and as chairman of the International Committee on Comparative Gene Mapping for the Human Genome Organization (HUGO). He is cofounder and director of NOAHS (New Opportunities in Animal Health Sciences), a consortium of scientists and apprentices that is part of the Smithstonian Institution/National Zoological Park and dedicated to applying biomedical technology on behalf of species conservation and to training a generation of conservation biomedical scientists. Under Dr. O'Brien's direction, NOAHS has sponsored field wildlife genetics projects on every continent except Antarctica using molecular biology to assess threats to endangered wildlife species. He is an adjunct professor at seven universities and is the author or coauthor of more than 450 scientific articles and the editor or co-editor of fourteen volumes. He received his B.S. in biology from St. Francis College and a Ph.D. from in genetics from Cornell University.

The Distinguished Scientist Lecture series continues Saturday, March 15, with Dr. Donald Henderson of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and a senior adviser on civilian biodefense matters to the federal government. His talk, "Smallpox: The Death and Resurrection of a Virus," is free and open to the public and will take place at a location to be announced at 3 p.m.

For more information on the Distinguished Scientist Lecture Series, call 845-758-7581.

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This event was last updated on 10-23-2002