Tue. Dec 7th, 2021

Organic chemistry classes can create all kinds of memories, but something lasting and meaningful, like Alfred Singer ’68 and Dinah (Schiffer) singer ’69. Since taking 5.41 in 1965 এবং and graduating from MIT in Biology (Dinah) and Philosophy with Minors in Biology তারা they have built a lasting marriage and influential career at the National Cancer Institute (NCI), contributing to great advances in cancer understanding and treatment.

The singer battles cancer from different angles. Al’s research on how the human body differentiates foreign molecules from its own led him to head the experimental immunology branch of the NCI’s Center for Cancer Research, while Dina’s research background and management skills set the stage for his leadership of several major strategic initiatives.

After the pair joined the NCI in 1975, Dina researched gene transcription and expression and molecular immunology, set up her own lab and served for 20 years as director of the Division of Cancer Biology, which funds most U.S. basic cancer research.

This resulted in him under seven years of supervision, 1.8 billion Cancer Munshot Program, Which seeks to increase the availability of therapy and improve prevention and early detection through scientific discovery, collaboration and data-sharing. Through more than 70 new consortiums and programs, the program (launched in 2016) has made advances in immunotherapy, childhood cancer research, tumor mapping, and many more.

Dinar’s appointment as NCI’s Deputy Director for Scientific Strategy and Development in 2019 came ahead of the 2020 epidemic, which called for its powers in a new way: when Congress asked NCI to conduct basic and clinical research on the protective responses to SARS-CoV-2 and possible approaches. Asked to administer the vaccine, he led the effort.

“The idea is to go beyond the emergency response and learn more about the response to future pathogens that we haven’t seen before,” he says. “It happened at lightning speed for a major program. We have issued 21 grants and established four centers for clinical assessment. We have been financing for five years because we do not know how long it will take for the epidemic to be resolved. ”

Meanwhile, Al fell into a puzzle that first intrigued him in the early 1970s, when newlywed singers were pursuing doctoral degrees at Columbia University (PhD at Dinah, Al is an MD). “What was taught as the basis of our disease does not seem to be the basis of what we have seen in patients,” he recalls. “Bacteria cause pneumonia, but pneumonia is not caused by bacteria – the diseases are mainly caused by the body’s response to the pathogens they encounter.”

An important moment came when, as a first-anniversary gift, Dina Alke bought a copy of Nobel laureate McFarlane Burnett. Shelf and not-shelf. “He thought it was a philosophy book, but it was actually an immunology book that aroused my interest in immunology and fueled it for decades,” Al said.

Burnett’s focus is on the processes that a body uses to differentiate between its own components (“self”) and foreign entities such as bacteria, viruses or toxins (“self-self”). When he began his research, scientists believed that white blood cells, known as T cells, performed this function, but it was unknown how they achieved that ability. Al’s early work demonstrates that the thymus plays a major role, and later studies in his lab have shown that the ability of T cells to identify the body’s own cells is not genetically predisposed but acquired.

“I am particularly proud that we have discovered the molecular basis of this crazy recognition system of the immune system, called the major histocompatibility complex (MHC) limitation, which leads to the functioning of different cells, such as helper cells and killer cells.” Al says. “Others have used it and have applied it quite successfully to cancer.”

Dina and Al have two sons and they enjoy traveling, theater and collecting works by local artists, but the “family business” of cancer research is never far away. “We probably talk more in stores than we realize,” Al said. “It’s an integral part of our lives – I don’t think we can make a difference.”

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