Scripps Research Institute Appoints Two Noted Harvard Scientists

JUPITER, FL – December 13, 2012 – The Scripps Research Institute (TSRI) has appointed Professor Michael R. Farzan and Associate Professor Hyeryun Choe to the faculty on its Florida campus.

Prior to joining Scripps Florida this month, both were on the faculty at Harvard Medical School.

“It is a pleasure to welcome Michael and Hyeryun,” said Peter K. Vogt, executive vice president and chief scientific officer of TSRI. “Both are involved in critical research that will help us advance the diagnosis and treatment of HIV and other devastating viral infections that need to be conquered and defeated.”

“I’m honored to join Scripps Florida,” Farzan said, “I’m genuinely excited by the compound discovery opportunities at Scripps Florida, and hope to develop new opportunities and new directions for my laboratory. I was drawn to Scripps Florida for its new technologies, and for its investigators with different disciplines.”

Choe said, “I’m extremely pleased to become part of Scripps Florida. Over the years, my laboratory has been moving from basic to more translational science, and Scripps Florida has a great reputation in both. I’m looking forward to working with other scientists, particularly medicinal chemists, in developing new therapeutic approaches to viral infection.”

Michael R. Farzan

Farzan’s research is focused on uncovering the process by which various viruses, including HIV-1 and SARS coronavirus, enter target cells and the immune system’s response to this event. Farzan is also working to find ways to enhance these immune responses. For example, his lab identified the cellular receptor for the SARS virus, a key post-translational modification of CCR5 necessary for HIV-1 infection, and a family of innate immune factors that prevent viruses from entering cells.

He has shown that some antibodies mimic certain host receptors, an important finding since such similarities make it more difficult for the virus to escape the body’s immune response. Farzan is currently investigating these antibodies, their role in controlling long-term infection, and how to better draw them out. His long-term goal is to find an appropriate combination of antibody and antibody-like molecules to provide long-term protection from HIV-1 infection following a single inoculation.

Farzan received a bachelor’s degree from Harvard College in 1984 and a PhD in Immunology from Harvard Medical School in 1997. He was a postdoctoral fellow in the Department of Cancer Immunology and AIDS at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston.

Farzan joined Harvard Medical School as an instructor in the Department of Pathology in 1999. In 2002, he was named an assistant professor in the Department of Medicine and, in 2005, an assistant professor in the Department of Microbiology and Molecular Genetics. In 2007, he was promoted to associate professor and, in 2012, to professor.

Among Farzan’s honors are the Richard A. Smith Prize for outstanding research at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, the Burroughs Wellcome Fund Investigators in Pathogenesis of Infectious Disease Award, and a Kavli Fellowship from the National Academy of Sciences and The Kavli Foundation.

Hyeryun Choe

Choe has focused on identifying the processes by which enveloped viruses enter their target cells. That focus has led to the identification of a number of key factors essential for entry of HIV-1, SARS coronavirus and a number of hemorrhagic fever viruses.

Among her significant research is a 2007 Nature paper that reported the identification of a key receptor for pathogenic New World arenaviruses—Machupo, Junin, Guanarito and Sabia, which cause hemorrhagic fever and significant casualties in various regions of South America. The team was also able to show that iron depletion enhances, and iron supplementation slows, infection by these viruses, suggesting iron supplement as a possible treatment.

Choe received a bachelor’s degree from Seoul National University in Korea in 1977 and a master’s degree in 1980. She was awarded a PhD from Pennsylvania State University in 1984, and subsequently conducted postdoctoral work at Harvard Medical School.

In 1997, Choe was appointed as an instructor at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and Harvard Medical School. In 2000, became an assistant professor at Children’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School.

Choe was the second most cited scientist for research published in 1996-7 as reported by Thomson Reuters' Essential Science Indicators Science Watch; in 2002, she was named a Prominent Scientist by the Society for Biomedical Research.

Farzan and Choe both live in Juno Beach.

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