News in Brief

PennMed Breakthroughs in AIDS

Twice in the past few weeks, AIDS research at PennMed has made front-page headlines as basic scientists publish the results of their work in scholarly journals.

First came the news that five teams of scientists, including one at Penn, have found new information on proteins on the surface of white blood cells that allow the virus to enter. One of the receptor sites, CD4, has long been known, but the new work fo-cuses on a second protein called fusin. Penn's team, led by Dr. Robert W. Doms, assistant professor of pathology and laboratory medicine, published their work in the June 28 Cell, identifying a series of cell-surface proteins called CKR2b, CKR3, and CKR5 used by the virus as "cofactors". The discovery "opens up whole new ways of trying to prevent HIV infection by blocking the virus from getting into the cell in the first place," said Dr. Doms.

Meanwhile, another Penn team presented last week the results of a clinical trial in which 60% of HIV-infected patients had a "substantial im mune-system response" to a new vaccine stemming from an approach developed by Dr. David Weiner, associate professor of pathology and labo ratory medicine. The same technology also protected uninfected chimpanzees against high doses of HIV in another Penn study, and lowered the virus present in HIV infected chimpanzees to undetectable levels in another. This research was presented last week in Vancouver at the XI Interna tional Conference on AIDS, where Dr. Rob Roy MacGregor, professor of medicine and infectious diseases, gave the results of the Phase I clinical trials and Dr. Jean D. Boyer, a research associate, discussed the chimpanzee data.

The findings involving human patients are significant because they confirm the feasibility of a new and deceptively simple direct-DNA inocu lation strategy developed at Pennlaboratory constructs of genetic material called plasmids that are injected into the muscle but with "no expecta tion that the genes in the vaccine will be integrated into the recipient's DNA or retained by the body over time." Results suggest this technology can work in humans, says Dr. Weiner. "It doesn't mean that we have an AIDS vaccine yet, but it does up an entirely new field of vaccine and immune therapeutics development for infectious diseases like AIDS, parasitic diseases, and cancers."

Purchasing = Acquisition Services

Effective July 1, Penn Purchasing's is Penn Acquisition Services, reflecting a "smaller, professionally based organization that will focus its effort on high return, value-added activities," according to the Finance newsletter, The Bottom Line. With the addition of a procurement specialist, Jim Graham, formerly of Drexel, the staffing is now:

Robert Michel, director

Ralph Maier, associate director

Karen Higgens, business operation manager

Tom Leary, Abe Ahmed and Jim Graham, procurement specialists

Debbie Lender, systems administrator

Carol Brandt, customer service/project specialist

Larry Gasparro, receptionist/PO router.

Acquisition Services now has a web site ( which provides updated procurement/disbursement policies and other information, plus a customer forum for feedback. For hard copy of the policies contact Doris McGann at 898-1710 or email


Volume 43 Number 1
July 16, 1996

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