Center for Infection and Immunity

Science, United Kingdom

Center for Infection and Immunity

Science, United Kingdom

Time filter

Source Type

A sex discrimination lawsuit filed last week has exposed a nasty fight roiling one of the most prominent, and well-funded, labs studying the mysterious condition known as chronic fatigue syndrome/myalgic encephalopathy (CFS/ME). The lengthy list of accusations, the most gossipy of which sparked coverage by the tabloid New York Post, include diversion of federal and foundation grant money. Ian Lipkin of Columbia University, a well-known virologist who  probes links between microbial infections and neuropsychiatric disorders, is being sued, along with the university, by epidemiologist Mady Hornig, his long-term collaborator. In the lawsuit, filed on 15 May in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, Hornig alleges that Lipkin for years has discriminated against her on the basis of sex and created a hostile work environment, violating U.S. and New York civil rights laws. In particular, it alleges that Lipkin took credit for Hornig’s work; diverted or misused funds, thus delaying the publication of Hornig’s research results; undermined her relationships with external collaborators and potential donors; and improperly added himself as principal investigator to grants. In an email response to a request for comment, Lipkin denies the charges, writing, “I did not engage in any wrongdoing and will vigorously defend against the allegations." A Columbia spokesperson said the university does not comment on matters in litigation. Hornig, who also declined to comment, works at the Center for Infection and Immunity at Columbia’s Mailman School of Public Health; Lipkin directs the center and is Hornig’s boss. Lipkin and Hornig have worked together for 21 years trying to tease out the impact of infection and immunity on brain disorders such as autism and schizophrenia, and more recently CFS/ME. The lawsuit asserts that Hornig and Lipkin “had a personal relationship that ended in 2011.” It then offers a variety of claims about subsequent discriminatory conduct by Lipkin, and the lack of a forceful response by Columbia when Hornig reported those actions. “Throughout their professional relationship, Lipkin made clear that he expected [Hornig] to be his largely-silent and always subservient partner, forced to work almost exclusively on his projects and to give him undue credit for her own work,” the lawsuit states. It adds: “No male faculty member in the Center is or has been subject to the same constraints or is or has been treated in this manner.” According to the lawsuit, Hornig filed a complaint against Lipkin with the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) in April 2016.  Lipkin’s discrimination against her escalated when he became aware of the EEOC complaint, the lawsuit alleges, and Columbia failed to take sufficient action, leading Hornig to sue Lipkin and the university. The lawsuit alleges that since 2013, Lipkin has refused to allow Hornig to post about her own work on the center’s website unless the postings include him; required her to get his permission before giving invited talks; routinely presented Hornig’s work as his own in meetings with collaborators; blocked her from meetings with potential donors; and silenced her at meetings, “sometimes kicking Plaintiff on the shins, under the table … or saying ‘shut up, Mady’ or ‘shut the f**k up, Mady’ at meetings attended by both Columbia and non-Columbia colleagues.” He also, she alleges, has repeatedly refused to support her for promotion to full professor, even while supporting a male colleague. Among the claims of misuse of funds, Hornig alleges Lipkin paid the salary of a researcher studying CFS/ME with money from the Simons Foundation Autism Research Initiative, which was supposed to be dedicated to an autism study. The suit also claims Columbia had to return more than $53,000 to the National Institutes of Health (NIH) because Hornig refused to sign off on improper use of autism grants. The lawsuit also cites an incident with this reporter as evidence that Lipkin took undue credit. When Lipkin was interviewed this past November about a 2-year, $766,000 project on CFS/ME funded by NIH, on which he and Hornig are co–principal investigators, Lipkin credited several external collaborators but did not mention Hornig’s contribution to the work, which aims to identify biomarkers of CFS/ME. (This reporter did not ask him directly about Hornig.) The article as initially published named only Lipkin as principal investigator. The lawsuit says that Hornig brought the matter to attention of a Columbia press officer, who, allegedly over the objections of Lipkin, contacted requesting that Hornig’s name be added to the online version of this article (it was). Hornig, a physician, also alleges that in 2014 and 2015 Lipkin summoned her to his office, dropped his pants and asked her to examine lesions on his buttocks; the lawsuit states that she complied for fear of retribution. For the same reason, according to the lawsuit, Hornig kept quiet about Lipkin’s overall pattern of behavior toward her. When Columbia’s human resources department was alerted to the situation in 2015, through an intermediary, the lawsuit alleges Lipkin stripped Hornig of her title as medical director of the center and “severely curtailed” her access to technicians and staff. About this time, according to the lawsuit, a colleague told Hornig that Lipkin was out to “demolish” her and that his determination to sully her reputation had made him “manic.” The lawsuit also suggests Hornig and Lipkin disagreed on what some of the lab’s data supported. At one point in 2016, according to the lawsuit, “Lipkin kept insisting on capturing a particular message from work [on an autism/prenatal acetaminophen study] which did not appear to be supported by the data.” Deborah Waroff, a retired Wall Street energy analyst and CFS/ME activist who was diagnosed with the poorly understood illness in 1989, bemoans the conflict between two of the disease’s leading scientists. The lawsuit claims that for a period the friction led to delays on five CFS/ME papers. “On balance this looks bad for CFS/ME,” Waroff says. “It is already disrupting research partnerships, and if the litigation proceeds, much more time and energy will have to shift from science to legal wrangling.”


News Article | May 1, 2017
Site: www.eurekalert.org

Development assistance for health targets largely ignores older age groups, with 90 percent of the assistance going to people below the age of 60, according to a new study led by a researcher at the Robert N. Butler Columbia Aging Center, Mailman School of Public Health. Children below the age of 5 receive the most development assistance for health. Findings from the study, Vast Majority of Development Assistance for Health Funds Target Those Below Age Sixty, will be published online and in the May issue of the journal, Health Affairs. Development assistance for health globally was $3.13 per person younger than age 60 in recipient countries, per DALY, defined as the sum of years lived with disability and years of life lost because of premature mortality. This is in contrast to $0.91 per person aged 60 and older. The gap was even higher at the extremes of the age distribution: People ages 70 and older received only $0.80 per DALY. Funds earmarked for low- and middle-income countries to improve health have more than quadrupled since 1990, reaching $36.4 billion U.S. dollars in 2015. The researchers used publicly available data from the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation's Financing Global Health 2015 report and the Global Burden of Disease Study 2015. They examined 27 assistance program areas that identified the cause of disease or the type of intervention targeted for the period 1990-2013. Country- and year-specific disability-adjusted life-years were calculated for each cause. "When we compared changes in development assistance for health and DALYs from 1990 to 2013 -- a period of epidemiological and demographic change during which the disease burden shifted toward older ages--we found that assistance was directed increasingly to children," said the study's lead author, Vegard Skirbekk, PhD, of the Columbia Aging Center and professor of Population and Family Health at the Mailman School of Public Health. For example, people younger than age five had $6.49 billion more assistance in 2013 than they had in 1990. The largest increases were for people ages 5-14 years. People in their twenties and thirties also received relatively large amounts of the spending for development assistance for health, some of it driven by HIV/AIDS funding. In 2013 the assistance benefited people younger than age five the most, with spending on this age group over three times more than any other age group. Many programs areas benefit this age group, especially assistance for child health, maternal and newborn health, and malaria. "Our results revealed that development assistance for health is likely to target diseases that occur early in life," noted Skirbekk. One driver for prioritizing younger over older populations may be that children are seen as representing the future. "Another idea is that younger people--especially children--should be given priority because they are more innocent, and that health risks and diseases that affect them are hardly due to behavior for which they could be held responsible," observed Skirbekk. Co-authors: Trygve Ottersen, Norwegian Institute of Public Health and Centre for Global Health, University of Oslo; Hannah Hamavid, Nafis Sadat, and Joseph L. Dieleman, Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, University of Washington. The study was supported by the Robert N. Butler Columbia Aging Center at Columbia University, the Norwegian Institute of Public Health, and Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Founded in 1922, Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health pursues an agenda of research, education, and service to address the critical and complex public health issues affecting New Yorkers, the nation and the world. The Mailman School is the third largest recipient of NIH grants among schools of public health. Its over 450 multi-disciplinary faculty members work in more than 100 countries around the world, addressing such issues as preventing infectious and chronic diseases, environmental health, maternal and child health, health policy, climate change & health, and public health preparedness. It is a leader in public health education with over 1,300 graduate students from more than 40 nations pursuing a variety of master's and doctoral degree programs. The Mailman School is also home to numerous world-renowned research centers including ICAP (formerly the International Center for AIDS Care and Treatment Programs) and the Center for Infection and Immunity. For more information, please visit http://www. .


News Article | April 17, 2017
Site: www.eurekalert.org

April 12, 2017 -- B vitamins can mitigate the impact of fine particle pollution on cardiovascular disease, according to new research conducted at Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health. Healthy non-smokers who took vitamin B supplements nearly reversed any negative effects on their cardiovascular and immune systems, weakening the effects of air pollution on heart rate by 150 percent, total white blood count by 139 percent, and lymphocyte count by 106 percent. This is the first clinical trial to evaluate whether B vitamin supplements change the biologic and physiologic responses to ambient air pollution exposure. The study initiates a course of research for developing preventive pharmacological interventions using B vitamins to contain the health effects of air pollution. The findings are published online in the Nature Publishing Group journal, Scientific Reports. Ambient fine particulate pollution contributes to 3.7 million premature deaths annually worldwide, predominantly through acute effects on the cardiovascular system. Particulate matter pollution is the most frequent trigger for myocardial infarction at the population level. "Ambient PM2.5 pollution is one of the most common air pollutants and has a negative effect on cardiac function and the immune system," said Jia Zhong, PhD, principal investigator, and postdoctoral research officer in the Department of Environmental Health Sciences at Columbia's Mailman School. "For the first time, our trial provides evidence that B-vitamin supplementation might attenuate the acute effects of PM2.5 on cardiac dysfunction and inflammatory markers." The paper builds on research published in March that found B vitamins reduce the negative effects of air pollution as measured by epigenetic markers. In the new study, researchers recruited ten healthy, 18 to 60-year-old, non-smoking volunteers who were not on any form of B vitamin supplements or other medication. All volunteers received a placebo for four weeks preceding a two-hour exposure experiment to concentrated ambient PM2.5 (250 μ g/m3), after which they were administered B vitamin supplements for four weeks before the next two-hour exposure experiment to PM2.5. A particle-free two-hour exposure was included to provide baseline data. The controlled exposure experiments were conducted from July 2013 to February 2014 at the same time of day and adjusted for season, temperature, and humidity. "Our results showed that a two-hour exposure to concentrated ambient PM2.5 had substantial physiologic impacts on heart rate, heart rate variability, and white blood counts. Further, we demonstrated that these effects are nearly reversed with four-week B-vitamin supplementation," noted Andrea Baccarelli, MD, PhD, chair and Leon Hess Professor of Environmental Health Sciences at the Mailman School. Because the researchers studied healthy adults from lightly polluted urban environment, they caution that their findings might not be generalizable to populations that are at higher risk for pollution-induced cardiovascular effects, including children, older adults, individuals with pre-existing cardiovascular disease, and individuals residing in heavily polluted areas. "With ambient PM2.5 levels far exceeding air quality standards in many large urban areas worldwide, pollution regulation remains the backbone of public health protection against its cardiovascular health effects. Studies like ours cannot diminish--nor be used to underemphasize--the urgent need to lower air pollution levels to--at a minimum--meet the air quality standards set forth in the United States and other countries. However, residual risk remains for those who are sensitive, and high exposures are, unfortunately, the rule still in many megacities throughout the world," said Dr. Baccarelli. The study, conducted with colleagues at Harvard's T. H. Chan School of Public Health, in Sweden, China, Singapore, and Canada, was supported by NIH grants (R21ES021895, R01ES021733, R01ES020836, R01ES021357, T32ES007142, P30ES000002) and by U.S. Environmental Protection Agency grants (RD-834798, RD-832416). The authors declare no competing financial interests. Founded in 1922, Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health pursues an agenda of research, education, and service to address the critical and complex public health issues affecting New Yorkers, the nation and the world. The Mailman School is the third largest recipient of NIH grants among schools of public health. Its over 450 multi-disciplinary faculty members work in more than 100 countries around the world, addressing such issues as preventing infectious and chronic diseases, environmental health, maternal and child health, health policy, climate change & health, and public health preparedness. It is a leader in public health education with over 1,300 graduate students from more than 40 nations pursuing a variety of master's and doctoral degree programs. The Mailman School is also home to numerous world-renowned research centers including ICAP (formerly the International Center for AIDS Care and Treatment Programs) and the Center for Infection and Immunity. For more information, please visit http://www. .


News Article | April 26, 2017
Site: www.eurekalert.org

Illicit cannabis use and cannabis use disorders increased at a greater rate in states that passed medical marijuana laws than in other states, according to new research at Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health and Columbia University Medical Center. The findings will be published online in JAMA Psychiatry. Laws and attitudes regarding cannabis have changed over the last 20 years. In 1991, no Americans lived in states with medical marijuana laws, while in 2012, more than one-third lived in states with medical marijuana laws, and fewer view cannabis use as entailing any risks. The new study is among the first to analyze the differences in cannabis use and cannabis use disorders before and after states passed medical marijuana laws, as well as differentiate between earlier and more recent periods and additionally examine selected states separately. The researchers used data from three national surveys collected from 118,497 adults: the 1991-1992 National Longitudinal Alcohol Epidemiologic Survey, the 2001-2002 National Epidemiologic Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions and the 2012-2013 National Epidemiologic Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions-III. Overall, between 1991-1992 and 2012-2013, illicit cannabis use increased significantly more in states that passed medical marijuana laws than in other states, as did cannabis use disorders. In particular, between 2001-2002 and 2012-2013, increases in use ranged from 3.5 percentage points in states with no medical marijuana laws to 7.0 percentage points in Colorado. Rates of increase in the prevalence of cannabis use disorder followed similar patterns. "Medical marijuana laws may benefit some with medical problems. However, changing state laws -- medical or recreational -- may also have adverse public health consequences, including cannabis use disorders," said author Deborah Hasin, PhD, associate professor of Epidemiology at the Mailman School of Public Health and in the Department of Psychiatry at Columbia University Medical Center. "A prudent interpretation of our results is that professionals and the public should be educated on risks of cannabis use and benefits of treatment, and prevention/intervention services for cannabis disorders should be provided." While illicit use of marijuana decreased and marijuana use disorder changed little between 1991-1992 and 2001-2002, both use and disorder rates increased between 2001-2002 and 2012-2013. In 1991-1992, predicted prevalences of use and disorder were higher in California than other states with early-medical marijuana laws (use: 7.6 percent vs. 4.5 percent; disorder: 2 percent vs. 1.15 percent). However, the predicted prevalence of past year use in California did not differ significantly from states that passed laws more recently. In contrast, the prevalences of use and disorder increased in the other 5 states with early medical marijuana laws. "Future studies are needed to investigate mechanisms by which increased cannabis use is associated with medical marijuana laws, including increased perceived safety, availability, and generally permissive attitudes," Dr. Hasin also noted. Co-authors: Aaron Sarvet and Malka Stohl, Columbia University Medical Center; Katherine Keyes and Melanie Wall, Mailman School of Public Health; Sandro Galea, Boston University School of Public Health; and Magdalena Cerda, University of California, Davis. The study was supported by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (grant K01AA021511), National Institutes of Health (R01DA034244, National Institute on Drug Abuse (grants K01AA021511, R01Dao40924-01A), and the New York State Psychiatric Institute. Founded in 1922, Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health pursues an agenda of research, education, and service to address the critical and complex public health issues affecting New Yorkers, the nation and the world. The Mailman School is the third largest recipient of NIH grants among schools of public health. Its over 450 multi-disciplinary faculty members work in more than 100 countries around the world, addressing such issues as preventing infectious and chronic diseases, environmental health, maternal and child health, health policy, climate change & health, and public health preparedness. It is a leader in public health education with over 1,300 graduate students from more than 40 nations pursuing a variety of master's and doctoral degree programs. The Mailman School is also home to numerous world-renowned research centers including ICAP (formerly the International Center for AIDS Care and Treatment Programs) and the Center for Infection and Immunity. For more information, please visit http://www. . Columbia University Department of Psychiatry Columbia Psychiatry is ranked among the best departments and psychiatric research facilities in the nation and has contributed greatly to the understanding and treatment of psychiatric disorders. Located at the Columbia University Medical Center campus in Washington Heights, the department enjoys a rich and productive collaborative relationship with physicians in various disciplines at Columbia University's College of Physician's and Surgeons. Columbia Psychiatry is home to distinguished clinicians and researchers noted for their clinical and research advances in the diagnosis and treatment of depression, suicide, schizophrenia, bipolar and anxiety disorders, eating disorders, and childhood psychiatric disorders. Visit http://columbiapsychiatry. for more information.


News Article | March 1, 2017
Site: www.eurekalert.org

March 1, 2017 -- The prevalence of smoking has remained fairly stable over the past decade after declining sharply for many years. To determine whether an increase in certain barriers to successful cessation and sustained abstinence may be contributing to this slowed decline, researchers at Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health analyzed changes in the prevalence of depression among current, former and never smokers in the U.S. The team found that depression appeared to have significantly increased in the U.S. from 2005 to 2013 among smokers, as well as among former and never smokers. While the prevalence of depression is consistently highest among smokers, the rate of increase in depression was most prominent among former and never smokers. The full study findings are published online in the journal Drug and Alcohol Dependence. The research team, led by Renee Goodwin, PhD, in the Department of Epidemiology, analyzed data from the National Household Survey on Drug Use, an annual cross-sectional study of approximately 497, 000 Americans, ages 12 and over. The prevalence of past 12-month depression was examined annually among current (past 12-month), former (not past 12-month), and lifetime non-smokers from 2005 to 2013. The researchers further analyzed the data by age, gender, and household income. "The prevalence of depression increased and remains higher among current smokers overall, but the rate of the increase among former and never smokers was even more prominent," noted Dr. Goodwin. Striking temporal changes emerged by age, gender and income. Specifically, depression increased significantly, from 16 percent to 22 percent, among current smokers aged 12 to17, and the prevalence was consistently more than twice as high as that of never smokers. The increase in depression also rose from 6 percent to 8 percent among male smokers and increased from 6 percent to 9 percent among smokers in the highest income group. Throughout this period, the prevalence of depression among current smokers was consistently twice as high as among former and never smokers. "The very high rates of depression among the youngest smokers, those aged 12-17, is very concerning, as it may impair their ability not only to stop smoking, but also to navigate the important developmental tasks of adolescence that are important for a successful adult life" said Mailman School of Public Health's Dr. Deborah Hasin, a senior member of the research team. "Public health efforts aimed at decreasing the prevalence of smoking must take depression into account, a common and modifiable barrier whose treatment may help to increase successful smoking cessation," said Dr. Goodwin, adjunct associate professor of Epidemiology. "We also need to examine factors that may be leading increases in depression in the U.S. population among both smokers and non-smokers." Co-authors are: Melanie Wall, Mailman School of Public Health; Lorra Garey, University of Houston; Michael Zvolensky, University of Houston; Lisa Dierker, Wesleyan University; Sandro Galea, Boston University School of Public Health; Misato Gbedemah, City University of New York; Andrea Weinberger, Albert Einstein College of Medicine; Jill Williams, Rutgers University-Robert Wood Johnson Medical School; Mei-Chen Hu, New York State Psychiatric Institute; and Deborah Hasin, Mailman School of Public Health. The study was supported by National Institutes of Health/National Institute on Drug Abuse, grant #DA-20892. Founded in 1922, Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health pursues an agenda of research, education, and service to address the critical and complex public health issues affecting New Yorkers, the nation and the world. The Mailman School is the third largest recipient of NIH grants among schools of public health. Its over 450 multi-disciplinary faculty members work in more than 100 countries around the world, addressing such issues as preventing infectious and chronic diseases, environmental health, maternal and child health, health policy, climate change & health, and public health preparedness. It is a leader in public health education with over 1,300 graduate students from more than 40 nations pursuing a variety of master's and doctoral degree programs. The Mailman School is also home to numerous world-renowned research centers including ICAP (formerly the International Center for AIDS Care and Treatment Programs) and the Center for Infection and Immunity. For more information, please visit http://www. .


News Article | February 15, 2017
Site: www.eurekalert.org

February 13, 2017 -- A study just released by Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health reports on the health of American women who were deployed to Vietnam for either military or civilian service. The results show that 48 percent of career military women were very happy compared to 38 percent of women in the general population, and of better than average physical and mental health. The study is the first study to describe the experiences of civilian women deployed to a warzone, compare them to those of military women and match the patterns of general health and happiness for women deployed to Vietnam with a representative sample of their peers. Findings are published online in the journal Social Science & Medicine--Population Health. In addition to positive aspects of service, adverse effects were also noted. Women who served less than 10 years in the military were more likely to report their Vietnam experience as "highly stressful" (28 percent) compared to career military women who served more than 20 years (12 percent) and civilian women (13 percent). They cited such stressors as poor living and working conditions, exposure to the consequences of war, physical threat, negative interpersonal experiences (including rape and sexual harassment), and drug and alcohol problems. About 265,000 women served in the U.S. military during the Vietnam Era, with as many as 11,000 deployed to Vietnam but not formally assigned combat roles. Nonetheless, they were deployed to combat zones where they experienced warzone stressors and hostile fire. "Our results suggest that a military career--which by military rules in force during the Vietnam era, precluded a woman from typical wife and mother roles--afforded women a meaningful experience that continued to positively impact their emotional well-being, even decades after the war," said Jeanne Mager Stellman, PhD, professor emerita of Health Policy and Management and senior author. Career military women who never had children also reported being happier than the average American woman. "Women who volunteered and went to Vietnam in the 1960s may have done so as a way of breaking away from the traditional roles assigned to women in the United States during that time, and they seem to have continued on a different trajectory in post-war years," said Dr. Stellman. Collaborating with the Vietnam Women's Memorial Project, Dr. Stellman and colleagues at the VA National Center for PTSD, VA Boston Healthcare System and Boston University School of Medicine also compared civilian women, primarily American Red Cross workers, to military women and studied how warzone experiences, exposure to casualties and sexual harassment, affected their current health. They also compared the deployed women to women of comparable age in the General Social Survey, a widely used representative study of Americans. Both military and civilian women who served in Vietnam, regardless of whether they continued to make the military their career, were less likely to have married or have had children than women from the general population. Deployment to Vietnam for both military and civilian women had other positive aspects. Many women reported satisfaction from their work with the wounded troops and civilians in Vietnam. Those who served as nurses, in particular, commented that they were given much more responsibility in their positions while in Vietnam than they would have had in a similar civilian job in the U. S. An earlier paper by Dr. Stellman and the Boston-VA based group evaluated the psychological well-being of approximately 1,300 female military personnel, Red Cross workers, and others deployed to Vietnam. "Our new study underscores the benefits of a military career for those women who chose it," noted Dr. Stellman. "Entering military service or volunteering for civilian activities in a warzone offered an opportunity for talented women to establish careers, and rise to high ranks and achieve positions that would be impossible in the civilian world. In addition, career military women in general, lived in a supportive community that was knowledgeable and sympathetic to their work. What we learned from this study can help to improve the experiences and well-being of current and future generations of female military personnel," noted Dr. Stellman. Co-authors include Anica Pless Kaiser and Eve H. Davison, Veteran Affairs A National Center for PTSD, Veteran Affairs Boston Healthcare System and Boston University School of Medicine; Avron Spiro III, Massachusetts Veterans Epidemiology Research and Information Center, VA Boston Healthcare System and Boston University Schools of Public Health and Medicine; Daniel H. Kabat, Mailman School of Public Health, now Gold Health Strategies, Inc. The study was supported by the National Academy of Sciences (NAS-VA-5124-98-001), National Institute on Aging (R24-AG039343), and U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (IK2 RX001832-01A2. Founded in 1922, Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health pursues an agenda of research, education, and service to address the critical and complex public health issues affecting New Yorkers, the nation and the world. The Mailman School is the third largest recipient of NIH grants among schools of public health. Its over 450 multi-disciplinary faculty members work in more than 100 countries around the world, addressing such issues as preventing infectious and chronic diseases, environmental health, maternal and child health, health policy, climate change & health, and public health preparedness. It is a leader in public health education with over 1,300 graduate students from more than 40 nations pursuing a variety of master's and doctoral degree programs. The Mailman School is also home to numerous world-renowned research centers including ICAP (formerly the International Center for AIDS Care and Treatment Programs) and the Center for Infection and Immunity. For more information, please visit http://www. .


News Article | February 22, 2017
Site: www.eurekalert.org

Women with signs of active genital herpes had twice the odds of giving birth to offspring with autism spectrum disorder Women actively infected with genital herpes during early pregnancy had twice the odds of giving birth to a child later diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), according to a study by scientists at the Center for Infection and Immunity at Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health and the Norwegian Institute of Public Health. The study is the first to provide immunological evidence on the role of gestational infection in autism, reporting an association between maternal anti-herpes simplex virus-2 (HSV-2) antibodies and risk for ASD in offspring. Results appear in mSphere, a journal of the American Society for Microbiology. "We believe the mother's immune response to HSV-2 could be disrupting fetal central nervous system development, raising risk for autism," says lead author Milada Mahic, a post-doctoral research scientist with the Center for Infection and Immunity and the Norwegian Institute of Public Health. The authors do not believe that the risk is due to direct infection of the fetus because such infections are typically fatal. Instead, they suggest that neurodevelopmental outcomes are due to primary or reactivation of infection in mothers with inflammation in close proximity to the womb. About one in five American women carries HSV-2, also known as genital herpes, a highly contagious and lifelong infection usually spread through sex. After an initial outbreak, HSV-2 virus lives in nerve cells and is often inactive, with flare-ups occurring with diminishing frequency as the body builds up immunity to the virus. The researchers sought to explore the link between maternal infection and risk for autism, focusing on five pathogens known collectively as ToRCH agents--Toxoplasma gondii, rubella virus, cytomegalovirus, and herpes simplex viruses type 1 and 2--to which exposure during pregnancy can lead to miscarriage and birth defects. They examined blood samples from 412 mothers of children diagnosed with ASD and 463 mothers of children without ASD enrolled in the Autism Birth Cohort (ABC) Study overseen by the Norwegian Institute of Public Health. Samples were taken at two time points--at around week 18 of pregnancy and at birth--and analyzed for levels of antibodies to each of the ToRCH agents. They found high levels of antibodies to HSV-2, not any of the other agents, correlated with risk for ASD. This link was only evident in blood samples taken at a time point reflecting exposure during early pregnancy when the fetal nervous system undergoes rapid development, not at birth. The finding mirrors earlier epidemiological data indicating that activation of the maternal immune system during early-to-mid-pregnancy is associated with long-term developmental and behavioral problems in offspring. In all, 13 percent of mothers in the study tested positive for anti-HSV-2 antibodies at mid-pregnancy. Of these, only 12 percent reported having HSV lesions before pregnancy or during the first trimester, a likely indication that most infections were asymptomatic. The effect of anti-HSV-2 antibodies on risk for ASD was only seen in males, not females. But because the number of females with ASD in the ABC Study is small, the researchers say there is not enough evidence to conclude that the effect is sex-specific, although generally, autism is more common in males. According to the authors, further study is needed to determine if screening and suppression of HSV-2 infection during pregnancy is needed. "The cause or causes of most cases of autism are unknown," says senior author W. Ian Lipkin, director of the Center for Infection and Immunity. "But evidence suggests a role for both genetic and environmental factors. Our work suggests that inflammation and immune activation may contribute to risk. Herpes simplex virus-2 could be one of any number of infectious agents involved." Co-authors include Siri Mjaaland at the Center for Infection and Immunity and Norwegian Institute of Public Health; Mady Hornig, Ezra Susser, Michaeline Bresnahan, Bruce Levin, and Xiaoyu Che at Columbia's Mailman School; and Hege Marie Bøvelstad, Nina Gunnes, Anne-Siri Øyen, Ted Reichborn-Kjennerud, Synnve Scholberg, Per Magnus, Christine Roth, Camilla Stoltenberg, and Pål Surén at the Norwegian Institute of Public Health; and Deborah Hirtz at the U.S. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. The study was supported by grants from the National Institutes of Health (NS47537, NS086122), the Jane Botsford Johnson Foundation, Simons Foundation Autism Research Initiative, Norwegian Ministry of Health and Care Services, Norwegian Ministry of Education and Research, and the Research Council of Norway. The authors report no conflicts of interest.


News Article | February 16, 2017
Site: www.eurekalert.org

February 16, 2017-- Newly released findings from national HIV surveys in Zimbabwe, Malawi, and Zambia reveal extraordinary progress in confronting the HIV epidemic. These three countries in Southern Africa have been heavily affected by HIV, and now there are encouraging signs that the epidemics are going in the right direction. The findings, presented today at the 2017 Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections (CROI), are from the PEPFAR-supported Population-based HIV Impact Assessment (PHIA) Project surveys. The surveys are led by each Ministry of Health, with technical assistance from ICAP at Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health in collaboration with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Compared with previous estimates, the PHIA data show that the rate of new infections (incidence) is stabilizing or declining. In addition, more than half of all adults living with HIV, regardless of use of antiretroviral medication, have a suppressed viral load and for those on antiretroviral medication, viral suppression is close to 90 percent. "Taken together, these findings tell a coherent and remarkable story of progress," said Dr. Jessica Justman, principal investigator and associate professor of Epidemiology at the Mailman School of Public Health. "We can see that Zimbabwe, Malawi and Zambia are on track to hit the UNAIDS 90-90-90 targets by 2020." Understanding the true status of an HIV epidemic rests on accurate measures of HIV prevalence, HIV incidence, and viral load suppression. These critical estimates provide a "report card" on the control of the epidemic and indicate where resources should be channeled to enable continued progress toward the 90-90-90 targets. The PHIA Project provides such information by directly assessing all of these measures through household surveys. "These results are gratifying evidence that the investment by PEPFAR and other donors, and the efforts of national HIV programs, are paying off. The data from the PHIA surveys provide greater insights on where to focus our collective efforts and resources going forward," said Dr. Shannon Hader, director of the Division of Global HIV and Tuberculosis at CDC. In Malawi, Zambia, and Zimbabwe, nationally representative groups of adults and children were recruited in each country in 2015-16. Across the three countries, a total of 76,000 adults and children from 34,000 selected households took part in interviews and provided blood samples for testing. Participants received their HIV test result from a trained counselor during the same visit. Combined HIV prevalence across the three countries was 12.2 percent among adults ages 15-59 years and 1.4 percent among children ages 0-14 years. Combined HIV incidence among adults was 0.51 percent. The combined prevalence of viral suppression (HIV RNA "These results reflect successful HIV care and treatment programs in each country," said Dr. Wafaa El-Sadr, Director of ICAP and University Professor of Epidemiology and Dr. Mathilde Krim-amfAR Chair of Global Health at the Mailman School of Public Health. "Now more than ever, we have to keep our foot on the pedal and push even harder. Targeted testing, especially for adolescents and young adults, and continued expansion of HIV treatment programs and other prevention interventions for all will be critical to achieve ultimate epidemic control." For more information, see the PHIA Project website: phia.icap.columbia.edu. The PHIA Project is a five-year, multi-country initiative funded by U.S. President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) through the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and conducted by ICAP at Columbia University, CDC, and local governmental and nongovernmental partners. The PHIA Project consists of household-based, population surveys that will collect information related to HIV in 13 countries. This project is supported by the U.S. President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) through the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) under the terms of cooperative agreement #U2GGH001226. The contents are the responsibility of ICAP and do not necessarily reflect the views of the United States Government. ICAP was founded in 2003 at Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health. Now a global leader in HIV and health systems strengthening, ICAP provides technical assistance and implementation support to governments and non-governmental organizations in more than 21 countries. ICAP has supported work at more than 5,300 health facilities around the world. More than 2.3 million people have received HIV care through ICAP-supported programs and over 1.3 million have begun antiretroviral therapy. Online at icap.columbia.edu Founded in 1922, Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health pursues an agenda of research, education, and service to address the critical and complex public health issues affecting New Yorkers, the nation and the world. The Mailman School is the third largest recipient of NIH grants among schools of public health. Its over 450 multi-disciplinary faculty members work in more than 100 countries around the world, addressing such issues as preventing infectious and chronic diseases, environmental health, maternal and child health, health policy, climate change & health, and public health preparedness. It is a leader in public health education with over 1,300 graduate students from more than 40 nations pursuing a variety of master's and doctoral degree programs. The Mailman School is also home to numerous world-renowned research centers including ICAP (formerly the International Center for AIDS Care and Treatment Programs) and the Center for Infection and Immunity. For more information, please visit http://www. .


News Article | February 15, 2017
Site: www.prweb.com

Akonni Biosystems, a molecular diagnostics (MDx) company that develops, manufactures, and intends to market integrated MDx systems, announced today the appointments of key members to its leadership team. Michael Murphy, M.Sc. joined as Vice President, Regulatory Affairs; Sandra Foster, Ph.D. as Director of Quality Assurance and Michael Reinemann, MPH as Director of Business Development. The new additions to Akonni’s leadership team fill critical gaps needed to ensure Akonni’s successful commercialization of its robust product lines. These experienced individuals further strengthen Akonni’s leadership team as the company prepares for its first FDA submission for a pharmacogenomic test on the Akonni TruDiagnosis® system. Michael Murphy is an industry pioneer and thought-leader in the field of Pharmacogenomics, with more than 33 years of scientific and business experience. He is a serial entrepreneur in the personalized medicine space and in 1997 was founder of Intek Labs, the first international Pharmacogenomics company. Following the acquisition of Intek Labs by PPD, Inc., Mr. Murphy was the co-founder, President and CEO of Gentris Corporation. Gentris was acquired by Cancer Genetics Inc. in 2015 while Mr. Murphy served on the Board of Directors at Gentris. In 2007, Gentris spun off its diagnostic group and Mr. Murphy served as the President and CEO of ParagonDx, one of the first companies to win FDA clearance of a Rapid Genotyping Kit for patients taking the anticoagulant, Warfarin. He has also held Executive Vice President management positions with PPGx and Clingenix. Prior to joining Akonni, Mr. Murphy served for 7 years as President of Conatus Consulting, a regulatory consulting practice based in Raleigh, NC. Mr. Murphy is a frequent lecturer and author on Pharmacogenomic topics, and currently sits on the editorial review board of the journal, Pharmacogenomics. He has been responsible for over 15 successful 510(k) submissions, FDA audits and inspections. He brings the expertise in FDA regulations and Quality Management Systems for medical devices that Akonni needs to advance its commercialization and registration efforts. Sandra Foster brings a unique blend of scientific knowledge and quality experience. She began her scientific career as a Medical Technologist (MT, ASCP), working in hospital laboratories. From the clinical lab she transitioned to research before going to graduate school. She earned a Ph.D. in Immunology from the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, followed by a post-doctoral fellowship at Duke University. Dr. Foster spent 12 years in clinical-phase biotechnology companies in roles of increasing responsibility from pre-clinical research and product design and development, to directing the manufacture of clinical trial materials and leading Quality Assurance and Regulatory Compliance. She designed ISO 14644-compliant clean room facilities for the manufacture of cellular therapy products for clinical trials, and implemented quality systems to support those activities. She designed, wrote and implemented process validations, operator qualifications, aseptic process simulations, comparability protocols, and authored multiple CMC sections for INDs. Immediately prior to joining Akonni, Dr. Foster owned her own consulting company, Triangle GxP Solutions, LLC as well as worked collaboratively with Mr. Murphy at Conatus. Client projects included translating R&D protocols into cGMP compliant SOPs, implementing quality systems, conducting client staff training, BLA, and pre-approval inspection (PAI) readiness. In her role as Director of Quality Assurance for Akonni, she leads design control efforts for product development, manages Device History Files, and prepares Akonni’s first audit for ISO 13485 Certification and FDA submission. Michael Reinemann has an exceptional track record of developing and implementing strategic, data-driven marketing and sales initiatives for diagnostic products resulting in strong double-digit growth and increased market share. Mr. Reinemann brings a diverse background, with experience in both technical and business roles. While earning his Master’s in Public Health at Columbia University in New York and working at the Mailman School of Public Health’s Center for Infection and Immunity, Mr. Reinemann worked on pioneering research projects in immunotherapy and pathogen discovery, and implemented cutting-edge technologies for highly multiplexed analysis and next-generation sequencing. Prior to joining Akonni in June of 2016, Mr. Reinemann served in various Commercial Operations roles at Qiagen. During his time at Qiagen, Mr. Reinemann led marketing and sales efforts that accelerated the growth of what has become the company’s single biggest revenue-contributing product. As Regional Marketing Manager of North America, Mr. Reinemann’s achievements included year-over-year growth of 55%, and the introduction of innovative co-marketing initiatives with strategic accounts, resulting in customer-specific growth of 75%. As Senior Global Product Manager, Mr. Reinemann managed a $150M product line with an annual growth rate of 25%, leading cross-functional project teams on commercial efforts as well as product development and product launches. His international business experience positions Akonni for success as the company navigates late-stage product development, registration, and commercialization of its technologies. “We are very excited to announce these essential additions to Akonni’s leadership team,” said Charles Daitch, Ph.D., President and CEO of Akonni Biosystems. “Each of these talented individuals bring valuable experience, demonstrated core competencies and dynamic industry insights from successful careers in clinical diagnostics. Our ability to hire people of this caliber speaks to the competitiveness of our product lines and their readiness to move expeditiously through the regulatory process. We are confident that we have the expertise needed to achieve our first FDA clearance and successful commercial launch of our TruDiagnosis platform.” Akonni is aggressively pursuing regulatory clearance of two product platforms – the TruDx®2000 platform and the TruTip® Automated Workstation. TruDx2000 is Akonni’s modular version of the TruDiagnosis® system, consisting of TruArray® three-dimensional (3D) gel-drop microarray diagnostic test devices and the TruDx Imager, complete with custom software for data analysis and reporting; the TruDx2000 can be bundled with or without the TruTip sample prep workstation depending on the needs of each clinical lab. The TruArray microfluidic device incorporates new, proprietary on-chip PCR technology, resulting in a much more user-friendly workflow, multiplexed detection, and a closed-amplicon system that virtually eliminates the risk of PCR contamination. The proprietary 3D gel-drop microarray nano-test-tubes can be tailored to detect genetic, protein or metabolite markers, providing the potential for access to a much broader range of diagnostic information from a single platform. The TruTip Automated Workstation is a small, affordable, fully-automated benchtop instrument. TruTip is a revolutionary technology that simplifies sample preparation by combining the complex protocols of DNA or RNA purification into just a few easy steps. The TruTip Automated Workstation is Akonni’s new nucleic acid purification instrument, which, in addition to blood and saliva, can homogenize and purify difficult samples such as sputum, stool and tissue. For more information visit: http://www.akonni.com About Akonni Biosystems Akonni Biosystems was founded in 2003 and has been issued 17 US and 24 International patents primarily covering sample preparation, microfluidic devices, bioinstrumentation, and integrated systems.    Product development has been supported by a series of government grants and contracts from NIH, CDC, DOE, DOD, NIJ, and NSF. The company significantly advanced the original technology by improving the system’s capabilities from sample preparation to test result. Commercial products in Akonni’s near-term pipeline include rapid sample preparation technologies for nucleic acid extraction and multiplex panel assays for detecting clinically relevant genotypes for pharmacogenomics, human chronic diseases, and genotypes for infectious diseases such as multidrug-resistant tuberculosis (MDR-TB), extensively drug-resistant tuberculosis (XDR-TB), upper respiratory infections, viral encephalitis, and hospital-acquired infections (MRSA).


News Article | February 22, 2017
Site: www.chromatographytechniques.com

Women actively infected with genital herpes during early pregnancy had twice the odds of giving birth to a child later diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), according to a study by scientists at the Center for Infection and Immunity at Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health and the Norwegian Institute of Public Health. The study is the first to provide immunological evidence on the role of gestational infection in autism, reporting an association between maternal anti-herpes simplex virus-2 (HSV-2) antibodies and risk for ASD in offspring. Results appear in mSphere, a journal of the American Society for Microbiology. "We believe the mother's immune response to HSV-2 could be disrupting fetal central nervous system development, raising risk for autism," says lead author Milada Mahic, a post-doctoral research scientist with the Center for Infection and Immunity and the Norwegian Institute of Public Health. The authors do not believe that the risk is due to direct infection of the fetus because such infections are typically fatal. Instead, they suggest that neurodevelopmental outcomes are due to primary or reactivation of infection in mothers with inflammation in close proximity to the womb. About one in five American women carries HSV-2, also known as genital herpes, a highly contagious and lifelong infection usually spread through sex. After an initial outbreak, HSV-2 virus lives in nerve cells and is often inactive, with flare-ups occurring with diminishing frequency as the body builds up immunity to the virus. The researchers sought to explore the link between maternal infection and risk for autism, focusing on five pathogens known collectively as ToRCH agents—Toxoplasma gondii, rubella virus, cytomegalovirus, and herpes simplex viruses type 1 and 2—to which exposure during pregnancy can lead to miscarriage and birth defects. They examined blood samples from 412 mothers of children diagnosed with ASD and 463 mothers of children without ASD enrolled in the Autism Birth Cohort (ABC) Study overseen by the Norwegian Institute of Public Health. Samples were taken at two time points—at around week 18 of pregnancy and at birth—and analyzed for levels of antibodies to each of the ToRCH agents. They found high levels of antibodies to HSV-2, not any of the other agents, correlated with risk for ASD. This link was only evident in blood samples taken at a time point reflecting exposure during early pregnancy when the fetal nervous system undergoes rapid development, not at birth. The finding mirrors earlier epidemiological data indicating that activation of the maternal immune system during early-to-mid-pregnancy is associated with long-term developmental and behavioral problems in offspring. In all, 13 percent of mothers in the study tested positive for anti-HSV-2 antibodies at mid-pregnancy. Of these, only 12 percent reported having HSV lesions before pregnancy or during the first trimester, a likely indication that most infections were asymptomatic. The effect of anti-HSV-2 antibodies on risk for ASD was only seen in males, not females. But because the number of females with ASD in the ABC Study is small, the researchers say there is not enough evidence to conclude that the effect is sex-specific, although generally, autism is more common in males. According to the authors, further study is needed to determine if screening and suppression of HSV-2 infection during pregnancy is needed. "The cause or causes of most cases of autism are unknown," says senior author W. Ian Lipkin, director of the Center for Infection and Immunity. "But evidence suggests a role for both genetic and environmental factors. Our work suggests that inflammation and immune activation may contribute to risk. Herpes simplex virus-2 could be one of any number of infectious agents involved."

Loading Center for Infection and Immunity collaborators
Loading Center for Infection and Immunity collaborators