Dominican University of California Partnering to Bring New Courses to Campus

he nation’s liberal arts colleges are at a crossroads. As enrollment sags and the public increasingly questions the rising cost of a degree, more small private colleges are closing or getting creative with their program offerings and educational models to stay afloat.

There are a number of approaches to the latter. Five of them are detailed in a 2017 paper by Mary Marcy, president of Dominican University of California. They include pivoting online, doubling down on traditional education and adding professional programs.

Dominican, which sits less than 20 miles north of San Francisco, recently made changes to keep its curriculum current. Last year, the college teamed up with Make School, a San Francisco-based coding program, in a first-of-its-kind partnership to offer its students a computer science minor. In turn, Make School gets to offer an accredited bachelor’s degree in applied computer science through Dominican.

Since the announcement, both institutions have tested new course offerings on their campuses, with plans to officially launch the programs this fall. Through a three-to-five-year incubation period with Dominican’s accreditor, WASC Senior College and University Commission, the university will help Make School earn its own accreditation.

Earlier this month, we sat down with Marcy at an event in Baltimore to learn more about the partnership and her thoughts on the future of small colleges.

Editor’s note: This interview has been edited and condensed for brevity and clarity.

EDUCATION DIVE: How do the computer science courses fit with Dominican’s programs, and how many students do you hope to enroll?

MARY MARCY: We want to make the computer science courses fit well with our students’ interests and needs. For example, it makes sense to align certain coding courses with our strong major in biology and use data analytics courses to support some of the students majoring in business. We don’t have a specific enrollment target, but we have a sense of what the minor will become and how it will integrate effectively with the institution.

What has been the biggest challenge throughout the trial run?

MARCY: It’s just cultural. As much as we have really similar values and a similar profile of students, Make School is still a start-up that wants to move really fast and nimbly, and we’re still an institution that’s been around for over 100 years. We think we’re really creative and innovative, but we still have to make sure everything is done according to state and federal government standards.

Make School is open to that, it’s just not where they start from. We’re both trying to be creative and obey the rules, but we are so firmly ingrained in one space and they’re so firmly ingrained in the other. It ends up being complicated, and it’s doubly complicated with a new entity that has no experience in this area.

Dominican now handles Make School’s admissions. Has that changed the type of students it enrolls?

​MARCY: Not really, because we talked about it a lot before we started the partnership, saying we didn’t want to change each other’s missions, we wanted to elevate them. We’re trying to support who they were already becoming. There’s a very diverse student body at Make School — that’s part of what attracted us.

We make sure students meet admissions requirements at Dominican. But Make School identifies the students because they have the expertise and their own mission to look after.

Will this change the type of student Dominican attracts?

​MARCY: We’ll find out this fall. It’s going to be interesting. We had a big entering class last year. This year’s class looks like it’s similar — maybe a little bigger. We’re going to ask what attracted them, and we’re going to see how much the partnership was one of the drivers.

This is a major partnership in higher ed. What kinds of institutions do you think will be drawn to these types of partnerships?

​MARCY: Certainly, smaller colleges are going to be looking at these type of partnerships because they can augment their current offerings without the three- to five-year start-up and millions of dollars of upfront investment. There are more quality providers that can do that now than there were a decade or two ago.

Large institutions are doing it a little differently. It looks a little bit more like the Purdue-Kaplan deal, where it’s more of a merger or acquisition than partnership.

What happens after the incubation period ends in three to five years?

​MARCY: It dissolves because we both ideally will have the knowledge and the capacity to deliver independently what we’re now delivering together. We built in a lot of professional development for faculty and staff in the memorandum of understanding with the idea that once they have exposure to Make School’s expertise and networks, then we can offer these courses independently.

Similarly, Make School is going to develop its capacity to deliver a comprehensive gen-ed curriculum. The partnership also develops expertise in things they haven’t had to think about as much, such as Title IX and other requirements. We’re trying to build each other’s capacity simultaneously.

Now that the university has tested the new course offerings, do you think there are any elements that need to be changed or altered?

​MARCY: We’ll look at the student feedback on the spring courses, but I would say the initial feedback has been really positive. Our faculty that have taught at Make School have been really happy with their experiences. They feel like students have been really engaged and interested.

I would say the bigger challenge is the back office stuff. That’s just a matter of the day-to-day blocking and tackling you have to do — trying to figure how to get a course catalog aligned, and how to align their credits and our credits. It’s a lot of logistics.

You wrote in 2017 that there are five pathways forward for liberal arts colleges. Do you still stand by those five pathways?

​MARCY: I think they’re evolving. In that piece, I had the colleges as kind of freestanding entities. Now I see it as more of a continuum, from the most traditional to the furthest from traditional.

The question for small colleges is: How much and what type of innovation is needed based on our actual internal capacity, our culture, who our students are and who we think they’re going to be?

I don’t think there’s a best approach. It really depends on institutional capacity, location and how fast they need to change. Some places feel like they need to change right now, while others feel like they have time to really build a consensus about where they’re going. Those are questions they have to bring to bear on what path they take.

Where do you see Dominican on that spectrum?

​MARCY: It’s a distinctive program, so it’s focused deeply on the mission of student success and a little bit more agnostic about program and disciplinary mix. We’re right in the middle of the continuum.

What do you think is the future of liberal arts?

​MARCY: I don’t think there’s much doubt that small colleges need to adapt. They don’t necessarily need to move their mission to do so but some will. If you’re fully market-driven, you’re probably going to add a lot of courses in the health sciences and technology, data analytics, maybe some business — and that really does fundamentally change your mission. But it also brings in students. If you’re fully committed to the liberal arts, you may not be able to adapt enough to deal with the headlines, unless you’re wealthy or elite enough that it doesn’t matter.

It’s a complicated landscape. Change and innovation are going to happen much more rapidly and aggressively than they have in the last two decades. It doesn’t mean places are necessarily going to close, but they will look fundamentally different.

https://www.educationdive.com/news/how-one-college-is-partnering-with-a-coding-school-to-bring-new-courses-to/555718/

BioMarin Seeks FDA OK For Gene Therapy

A potential one-shot-and-you’re-done hemophilia A treatment from BioMarin Pharmaceutical Inc. will target regulatory approval in the United States and Europe after showing dramatic decreases in bleeding during clinical trials.

But in a competitive market to find the next big and expensive treatment to help — or even cure — hemophilia A patients, questions linger around how long the treatment sticks with patients. BioMarin (NASDAQ: BMRN) apparently didn’t allay those concerns Tuesday: The San Rafael-based company said its treatment appeared to plateau in restoring the amount of a clotting protein, known as Factor VIII.

The so-called durability of BioMarin’s valoctocogene roxaparvovec — or “valrox,” for short — could have an impact on the treatment’s ultimate acceptance by patients and what the company can charge for it. Just last week, Novartis AG said it would charge $2.1 million for a gene therapy to treat a muscle-wasting disease known as spinal muscular atrophy.

BioMarin stock closed down $4.57 per share, or 5.1 percent, to $84.50 in Tuesday trading.

On the surface, BioMarin’s disclosures around valrox Tuesday are positive. The company said a late-stage clinical trial found that eight patients met pre-specified criteria for Factor VIII activity levels. That study and a Phase I/II study dropped the median number of annual bleeding events to zero after three years, and the company thinks valrox could hit the market by the end of 2020.

The drop in the number of bleeding events is significant, both from a statistical point of view and for patients. Hemophilia A, also known as “classic hemophilia,” is a genetic disorder that causes the body to produce little or no Factor VIII. Without the clotting protein, minor cuts can turn into life-threatening bleeds and bruising can cause blood to pool around and damage joints and muscles.

There are about 20,000 people in the United States with hemophilia A, according to the National Hemophilia Foundation, and some patients in the earlier-stage study had a median of 16.3 bleeding events in the year before entering the study; valrox brought that to virtually zero.

“These data confirm that valoctocogene roxaparvovec has the potential to profoundly impact the lives of people with severe hemophilia A through a sustained reduction in bleeds and Factor VIII usage,” Dr. Hank Fuchs, BioMarin’s president of global research and development, said in a statement Tuesday.

BioMarin is led by Chairman and CEO Jean-Jacques Bienaimé.

Hank Fuchs is BioMarin’s president of global research and development.

Today, many hemophilia patients are largely dependent on injections several times a week of drugs, including ones manufactured at Bayer’s Berkeley facility, to maintain Factor VIII levels. Those treatments can cost upwards of $1,000 a week.

The promise of gene therapy — in hemophilia as well as other genetic diseases — is ultimately to provide more than a patch but a long-term fix, even a cure, with a single treatment. While valrox caused bleeding control to plateau at three years, Fuchs said that statistical models indicate the effect should last for at least eight years.

“This is fantastic news for the hemophilia community,” Fuchs said.

Wall Street saw the durability of valrox as significant, particularly in a hemophilia drug development marketplace that has spotlighted a handful of Bay Area companies. Another experimental gene therapy from Richmond’s Sangamo Therapeutics Inc. (NASDAQ: SGMO) and partner Pfizer Inc. (NYSE: PFE), called SB-525, last month showed zero bleeding events and a dose-dependent increase in Factor VIII levels across four different dosing groups with two people each.

Then there is Bayer, which won FDA and European regulatory approval last year for a long-acting Factor VIII treatment, and South San Francisco’s Genentech Inc., which in fall 2017 won regulatory approval of Hemlibra, a treatment injected just once a week.

SolarCraft Completes Solar Power Systems at Holy Spirit Church & School

Novato and Sonoma based SolarCraft, a leading North Bay solar installer for over 35 years, recently completed the installation of a 68.6 kW DC solar system at Holy Spirit Church and an 89.6 kW DC solar system on the adjoining Holy Spirit School in Fremont, CA.

The combined solar power systems are roof mounted on the main school buildings and gymnasium, consisting of 570 high-efficiency solar panels, designed to produce 220,861 kWh every year, saving Holy Spirit over $50,000 annually in utility expenses.  Excess power generated during the day is sent back to the power grid for credit towards future use when the when the sun isn’t shining.

“Working with Jeannie, Blake, and the rest of the great folks at SolarCraft made the entire process completely smooth and straight forward,” said Jeff Van der Sluis, Business Manager at Holy Spirit Church.  “They kept us well informed every step of the way, it couldn’t have gone any better. We are thrilled to be fulfilling the calling of Pope Francis in being good stewards of our planet by switching to renewable energy for our large campus here at Holy Spirit, not to mention the long term significant savings in our utility bills!”

The solar installation at Holy Spirit is one of many planned through the Diocese of Oakland Solar Energy Program for Parishes and Schools, displaying community leadership by promoting environmental responsibility through the implementation of renewable energy, but also recognizing the importance of managing operation costs.

California Clean Energy (CCE), a Renewable Energy Service Provider for nonprofit organizations, will own the system and recover its costs through a Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) with the church.  A PPA is an alternative to purchasing or financing your own solar power system, providing nonprofits the opportunity to utilize clean solar energy with no up-front costs and no system operation, maintenance, and replacement costs.   Customers also benefit from pre-set electricity prices which will never increase.

Every year over 156 metric tons of carbon dioxide generated by Holy Spirit’s operations will be eliminated.  This impact is equivalent to removing air pollution produced by over 9.5 million miles of driving over 25 years or the pollutants removed by 184 acres of trees in one year.

About Holy Spirit Church

Holy Spirit Church is an historical landmark located in the Centerville District of Fremont. Originally named Holy Ghost Church, it has brought worshipers together for the Sacraments since 1886. A Parish of The Roman Catholic Diocese of Oakland, California, it serves a diverse community of individuals of the Catholic Faith.  It has always reflected the growth and diversity of the parish and the community surrounding it.

SolarCraft is 100% Employee-Owned and one of the largest green-tech employers based in the North Bay for over
35 years.  SolarCraft delivers Clean Energy Solutions for homes and businesses including Solar Electric, Solar Pool Heating and Battery / Energy Storage.  With over 7,000 customers, our team of dedicated employee-partners is proud to have installed more solar energy systems than any other company in the North Bay.    
www.solarcraft.com

Kaiser Permanente in Top 50 Hall of Fame

At Kaiser Permanente, we believe that life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness require total health, and that includes equal access to high-quality health care for all people, regardless of who they are or where they live. We recognize the importance of an inclusive and equitable workforce culture and its role in our overall success and we are continuously recognized for our leadership in this area.

For the second year in a row, Kaiser Permanente was named to the DiversityInc Top 50 Hall of Fame. DiversityInc awards Hall of Fame status to companies that have demonstrated exceptional diversity and inclusion management, excelling in such areas as hiring, retaining, and promoting women, minorities, veterans, people with disabilities, and people in the LGBTQ community.

“Being named to the DiversityInc Hall of Fame once again is a great honor and demonstrates our commitment to achieving equity and inclusion for all,” said Ronald L. Copeland, MD, FACS, senior vice president and chief equity, inclusion, and diversity officer for Kaiser Permanente.

“Our position in the DiversityInc Top 50 Hall of Fame is not guaranteed. We must continue to advance our learning and find new ways to prioritize and exemplify equity, inclusion, and diversity among our members, employees, and the communities we serve,” said Dr. Copeland.

Companies are eligible for the Hall of Fame if they have ranked number 1 on DiversityInc’s Top 50 Companies for Diversity list since 2012. Kaiser Permanente has ranked in the top 5 every year since 2010 and held the number 1 spot in 2011 and 2016.

Companies that participate in the DiversityInc Top 50 list are assessed on their performance versus all competitors overall and in 4 key areas of diversity management:

  • Talent Pipeline: workforce demographics, recruitment, breadth of existing talent, organizational structures
  • Talent Development: employee resource groups, mentoring, philanthropy, opportunity for advancement, fairness
  • Leadership Accountability: responsible for results, personal communications, visibility
  • Supplier Diversity: spending with companies owned by people from underrepresented groups, accountability, support

Midstate Construction Completes Hana Gardens Project

Midstate Construction Corporation recently completed construction of Hana Gardens, a new affordable housing community for Eden Housing in El Cerrito, CA.

Designed by Van Meter Williams Pollack, this project features new construction of a 63 unit, 55,732 square foot, 4 story wood framed affordable housing community.

Additional project features include a community room which opens onto an outdoor courtyard garden, photovoltaic panels and a 2,300 square foot commercial space. A portion of the work included demolition and rehabilitation of a small historical floral shop which was re-purposed into a second community room. 50% of the units meet California tax credit requirements for accessible mobility.

North Bay Students Participate in STEM Race Car Challenge During NASCAR in Sonoma

More than 900 North Bay students from 45 classrooms and clubs will take part in the 6th annual STEM Race Car Challenge, presented by Friedman’s Home Improvement.

This curriculum-based program, a partnership with Sonoma Raceway, Kid Scoop News and Friedman’s Home Improvement, focuses on educating students about the importance of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) and culminates at the Toyota/Save Mart 350 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series event in June.

Groups of student engineers have been tasked with developing a gravity-powered race car utilizing recycled materials. Kid Scoop News works closely with teachers to develop a STEM-based curriculum that challenges students to think critically and work collaboratively to build the quickest car. Activities in the STEM Race Car Challenge, presented by Friedman’s Home Improvement, are designed to introduce and reinforce both national common core standards and 21st century job skills.

Students will put their purpose-built race cars to the test in a series of qualifying rounds at each school or Boys & Girls Club, which will narrow down to a group of finalists who will compete in the final round on Saturday, June 22, of the Toyota/Save Mart 350 weekend. Winners will be named for Most Creative Car, overall winning team and winning teacher. New for 2019, all student racers and their families will take part in a behind-the-scenes tour of the NASCAR garage to experience STEM and racing in action.

In addition, the winning student engineers of the STEM Race Car Challenge will serve as VIPs during the Carneros 200 NASCAR West Series race on Saturday, receive a trophy and the ultimate Sonoma Raceway prize pack. Last year’s winning team was “Speed Girls”; Alia, Birdie, Ella and Madison from Windsor Creek Elementary.

For the past five years, Sonoma Raceway has partnered with Sonoma-based Kid Scoop News, a children’s literacy non-profit that publishes and distributes a free monthly reader to 500 classrooms and 18,000 kids in the North and East Bay, on the race car challenge. Kid Scoop News has been key to the program, as the organization is a leader in providing high-interest content that motivates kids to read and explore topics, including STEM. Through their effort, the program has reached more than 4,800 students since its inception in 2014.

North Bay schools and clubs participating in this year’s STEM Race Car Challenge include:

  • Boys & Girls Clubs of Central Sonoma County: Camp Cloverdale; Camp Guerneville; Camp Healdsburg; Camp Lucchesi Park; Camp Rohnert Park; Camp Sheppard Elementary; Camp Matanzas Elementary; Camp Brooks Road; and Camp Taylor Mountain Elementary.
  • Corona Creek Elementary (Petaluma)
  • Coyle Avenue Elementary (Carmichael)
  • Helen Lehman Elementary (Santa Rosa)
  • Hidden Valley School (Santa Rosa)
  • John Reed Elementary (Rohnert Park)
  • La Tercera Elementary School (Petaluma)
  • Loma Verde Elementary (Petaluma)
  • Lynwood Elementary (Novato)
  • Meadow School (Petaluma)
  • Napa Junction Elementary (American Canyon)
  • University Elementary (Rohnert Park)
  • West Side Union Elementary School (Healdsburg)
  • Windsor Creek Elementary (Windsor)

“Kids learn more and retain more of that learning when STEM subjects are tied to the real world,” said Vicki Whiting, curriculum developer and publisher of Kid Scoop News.   “The partnership with Sonoma Raceway provides kids with a real-word, hands-on and super effective way to teach STEM!”

NASCAR fans and guests are invited to watch the finals of the STEM Race Car Challenge, presented by Friedman’s Home Improvement at 10:40 a.m. on Saturday, June 22, in Sonoma Raceway’s Sunoco Victory Lane located just south of the main grandstand. For tickets or more information on NASCAR’s annual visit to Sonoma, visit www.SonomaRaceway.com/NASCAR or call 800-870-RACE.

College Of Marin Unveils $3M Bolinas Marine Lab Rebuild Plan

After more than a dozen years of uncertainty and bureaucratic roadblocks, College of Marin officials this week unveiled its first actual conceptual plans to rebuild the shuttered Bolinas Marine Lab along the Bolinas Lagoon in West Marin.

“This is prestigious for the College of Marin and it benefits the lagoon,” said Rudi Ferris of the Bolinas Lagoon Advisory Council, one of about 45 people at a public meeting Wednesday in Bolinas. “Under all those circumstances, this is one of the most wonderful developments I’ve seen.”

COM biology instructor Joe Mueller, who spearheaded efforts to restore the field station after it was closed in 2006 because of deterioration and safety concerns, said it was “amazing how many people are behind this.” In early 2018, he and others organized the Bolinas Marine Lab Coalition, a group of faculty, community members and science alumni, to support preservation and restoration of the field station.

“We’re really excited,” Mueller said Wednesday. “There’s no other place in the world like this.”

The plans, presented by architect Lance Kutz of Perkins Eastman in Oakland, call for all three existing structures at the site at 72 Wharf Road across from the lagoon to be demolished. In their place, contractors would build a 2,300-square-foot, one-story structure to include classrooms, equipment storage space and faculty offices. All seven existing parking spaces would be maintained — and could likely continue to be used by the community when college-related activities are not taking place, said College of Marin President David Wain Coon.

The estimate for both demolition and construction was $3 million — a “pleasant surprise,” he said.

“I thought it would be a lot higher than that,” Wain Coon added. Financing would come from voter-approved bond money and some private contributions.
“When we were last out here (two years ago), we believed that it was unlikely that we could use part of our Measure B funds,” Wain Coon told the group. “We have established that, in fact, we can actually use a portion  of our Measure B funds — and  some private dollars to enhance that.”

Wain Coon cautioned that it was not yet a done deal, since the project still needed a series of environmental and construction approvals from the county, the Coastal Commission and possibly the state. COM vice president Greg Nelson said the timeline for the approval process would likely be at least a year, even if no major objections or hurdles emerge.

“We just wanted to get a project in place that we could push down the path, push it as far as we can, and hopefully we’ll have a positive outcome,” Wain Coon said.

Built in 1914 as the Bolinas Bay Lifeboat Station and operated by the U.S. Coast Guard, the Wharf Road site was purchased by what was then the Marin Junior College District in 1955. The complex includes a two-story, 3,333-square-foot house with two libraries, two offices and a kitchen, as well as a separate laboratory. All of those structures would be razed under the plans unveiled Wednesday.

The lab hosted a College of Marin course in marine biology until 2004, and a children’s summer science program until 2005. The complex was officially shuttered in 2006.

Wednesday’s exuberance was in vivid contrast to earlier meetings where engineering, legal and seismic experts told COM that the field station was an environmental hazard and should be abandoned rather than spend millions to fix it up. In addition to the building deterioration and concerns about the instability of the structures, the field station was considered at risk due to earthquakes — since it rests near the San Andreas fault — landslides from the bluff immediately behind it, asbestos, tsunamis and toxic mold.

“We were so frustrated with the building as it was,” said Ralph Camiccia, a member of the Bolinas Lab Advisory Council. “The only advantage to the community was that we used their parking spaces.” The community also uses the college-owned dock across Wharf Road from the lab for access to the lagoon. The dock and its use by the community would not be affected by the new construction, officials said.

Since 2006, various groups have tried to rally the college and community toward restoration, but those efforts were marred by doubts that state laws might prohibit construction or that bond financing would be blocked due to the proximity of the earthquake fault lines. In 2017, the college was considering declaring the facility as surplus property and donating it to Bolinas for use as a community center, rather than deal with all the legal and financial hurdles.

But Mueller and other faculty assembled a lengthy research report on the project. Their research established that those legal and financial concerns were unwarranted.

“The faculty still maintains that there’s no legal or program or financial impediments to this project,” Mueller said Wednesday, Wain Coon, who met with faculty on numerous occasions, also researched the issue and came to the same conclusion, he told college trustees last year.

Relatives of COM science teacher Al Molina, who co-founded the marine lab program along with science instructor and resarcher Gordon Chan in the early 1960s, were pleased Wednesday that their ancestors’ legacy will not be lost.

“Al Molina and Gordon Chan would be very proud,” said Joe Horton, husband of Molina’s daughter, Karyn Molina-Press of Petaluma.

“We’re really excited about this project coming to fruition finally,” Molina-Press said. “I’m excited to go to the next step. We’re going to push this thing through.”

Nelson said the next step would be preliminary submissions to county staff. Marin Supervisor Dennis Rodoni, who has coordinated the public outreach between the college and the community of Bolinas for several years, was in the audience Wednesday.

“I’m really pleased with the progress the college has made in addressing the community’s interest in removing a blight in the town, (which) will be possible with the COM plan,” Rodoni said in an email. “And what a treasure — having an science lab in that location.”

Midstate Construction Completes NanaWall Production Facility

Midstate Construction Corporation recently completed construction of the NanaWall Production Facility, a new assembly/production facility for NanaWall in North Richmond, CA.

Designed by Tierney/Figueiredo Architects, this project features new construction of a 51,700 square foot steel building on a 3.2 acre site. This facility will manufacturer custom bi-fold doors and operable glass wall systems

Buck Researchers Identify Crosstalk Between Dopaminergic Neurons and Glial Cells in Fruit Flies Providing a Potential New Target for Preventative Treatment

Loss of dopaminergic neurons is a hallmark of Parkinson’s disease pathology. When dopaminergic neurons are stressed, they send out a call for help to nearby glial cells that are tasked with providing neuronal support, protection and nourishment. Under particular molecular conditions, those calls for help can over-activate the glial cells, resulting in a cascade of inflammatory signaling that eventually contributes to the degradation of these neurons over time. Working in two fruit fly models of Parkinson’s disease, researchers at the Buck Institute have characterized a novel molecular mechanism that orchestrates such a harmful cascade of inflammatory signaling and demonstrated that its disruption protects neurons as they age. The research, published in Cell Reports, provides a new framework for understanding the pathology of Parkinson’s disease and offers an alternative approach for developing preventative treatments for a neurodegenerative disorder that afflicts millions of patients worldwide.

“We have known for some time that different forms of genetic or environmental stress in neurons can trigger a response in glial cells; now we’ve been able to identify a molecular mechanism that explains how neuronal stress can lead to activation of inflammatory signals in glial cells,” said Buck professor Pejmun Haghighi, PhD, senior author of the study. “Working in flies allowed us to identify a vicious cycle: stressed neurons signal to the glia and trigger inflammatory signals in the glia, which become harmful for the neuron as the brain ages.  Interestingly, the genetic components of this crosstalk are conserved between flies and humans, boosting our enthusiasm and confidence that future work might lead to novel therapeutic paradigms.”

To induce Parkinson’s-like neuronal defects, multiple sets of experiments were performed on flies that were genetically engineered to carry Parkinson’s disease-related human genes or others that were exposed to a pesticide known as paraquat. In both cases, researchers identified Furin 1, a catalytic protein, in dopaminergic neurons as the initiator of an inflammatory signaling cascade in glial cells.  Blocking this inflammatory signaling in the glial cells in both models of the disease reduced the toxic cross-talk and ultimately protected the neurons from degeneration.

“Furin 1 is the real culprit in the interaction between the neurons and glial cells. It’s the ‘finger’ that pushes the switch on the signaling cascade,” said postdoctoral fellow Elie Maksoud, PhD, the lead scientist on the study. “Furin 1 is a druggable target. Our hope is that treatments can be developed to reduce this toxic crosstalk before it becomes a serious problem for the dopaminergic neurons.”

“We’re looking at a new way to prevent Parkinson’s, especially in those who have risk factors for the disease,” said Haghighi. “The effects of this toxic signaling are age-dependent, they accumulate over time. The goal is to intervene as early in the disease process as possible.” The researchers plan to use human cell culture models to further test the validity of the interactions.

Citation: “A neuron-glial trans signaling cascade mediates LRRK2-induced neurodegeneration”
DOI: 10.1016/j.celrep.2019.01.077

Buck researcher Edward H. Liao was also involved in the study.

The work was funded by NIH grant R01NS082793

Buck Institute for Research on Aging President and CEO Eric Verdin Appointed to President’s Advisory Council for the Health Longevity Grand Challenge

The National Academy of Medicine is launching a Global Grand Challenge for Healthy Longevity – a worldwide movement to increase physical, mental, and social well-being for people as they age. Dr. Verdin is pleased to join distinguished colleagues from Harvard and Stanford, as well as a network of prominent business, philanthropic, entertainment and cultural leaders, on the newly created President’s Advisory Council for the Healthy Longevity Grand Challenge.

The initiative will have two components: a prize competition to catalyze breakthrough innovations from any field, and an evidence-based report authored by an international commission. The combined objectives of the initiative are to: 1) Catalyze breakthrough ideas and research that will extend the human health span; 2) Achieve transformative and scalable innovation by translating evidence into action; 3) Provide a comprehensive assessment of the challenges and opportunities presented by global aging; and 4) Build a broad ecosystem of support.

“There is so much excitement about the field of research on aging at the National Academy of Medicine!” said Dr Verdin. “NAM President Victor Dzau has galvanized the organization about this tremendously important initiative. I am delighted that the Buck Institute will be playing a prominent role.”