Dr. Gerald D. Fischbach, Director of the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke at NIH, Named Columbia's Vice President for Health and Biomedical Sciences

Dec 05, 2000, 00:00 ET from National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Storke at the

    NEW YORK, Dec. 5 /PRNewswire/ -- Gerald D. Fischbach, M.D., Director of
 the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke at the National
 Institutes of Health (NIH), has been named Columbia University's Vice
 President for Health and Biomedical Sciences, Dean of the Faculty of Health
 Sciences and Dean of the Faculty of Medicine, Columbia President George Rupp
 announced today (Tuesday, December 5, 2000).  Dr. Fischbach will also be the
 Harold and Margaret Hatch Professor of the University in the Faculties of
 Health Sciences and of Medicine.
     A pioneering researcher, Dr. Fischbach was the Nathan Marsh Pusey
 Professor of Neurobiology and Chairman of the Neurobiology Departments at both
 the Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts General Hospital before assuming
 his current position at NIH in 1998.
     At Columbia he will head a division that includes four health science
 professional schools with 27 academic departments, 3,000 students and 2,300
 full-time faculty; a biotechnology park; some 40 biomedical research and
 treatment centers; and physician practice affiliations with two dozen
 hospitals.  The Health Sciences Division has an annual operating budget of
 $815 million and has $230 million in sponsored research grants.
     Dr. Fischbach replaces Herbert Pardes, M.D., who left Columbia in December
 1999 to become Vice Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer of New
 York Presbyterian Hospital.
     "Gerry Fischbach is a highly respected researcher and a far-sighted leader
 who has had a distinguished career at NIH and the Harvard and Washington
 University medical schools.  He is superbly qualified to meet the challenges
 and opportunities of leading a world-class health and biomedical sciences
 center," said President Rupp.  "Columbia has made dramatic progress in
 biomedical education and research, and in the clinical practice of our
 physicians, both in our hospital-based and clinical programs.  I am delighted
 that Gerry Fischbach has agreed to lead our continuing aggressive initiatives
 in the health and biomedical sciences."
     Jonathan R. Cole, Columbia's Provost and Dean of Faculties, co-chaired the
 search with Dr. Timothy Pedley, the Chair and Henry and Lucy Moses Professor
 of Neurology.   Cole said of Dr. Fischbach: "A man of exceptional scientific
 achievement, intelligence, energy, determination, strategic vision about the
 future of biomedical sciences and its links to clinical medicine, Gerald
 Fischbach is the ideal choice for Vice President of the Health Sciences and
 Dean of the Faculty of Medicine.  Building upon Herb Pardes' successes, I
 fully expect that Gerry Fischbach will demonstrate the leadership necessary
 for Columbia to take full advantage of the biological revolutions that have
 begun.  He will help us become an even more distinguished university.
     "When we began this search, many people inside and outside of Columbia
 said to me: 'Try to get someone like Gerald Fischbach.  He would be terrific.'
 I asked, 'Why not get Gerry himself?'  And we are fortunate to have succeeded
 in that effort.  We all welcome him to Columbia."
     Dr. Fischbach said of his appointment, "This is an extraordinary time in
 biomedical and health sciences. Advances at all levels of analysis, ranging
 from molecules to behavior, have begun to revolutionize the practice of
 medicine. Investigators throughout Columbia University have contributed
 enormously to this revolution.  It is privilege to join this distinguished
 faculty and help shape its course in the coming years."
     Dr. Fischbach received his M.D. degree in 1965 from Cornell University
 Medical School and interned at the University of Washington Hospital.  He
 began his research career at the National Institutes of Health, serving from
 1966 -- 1973.  He subsequently served on the faculty of Harvard Medical
 School, first as Associate Professor of Pharmacology from 1973 -- 1978 and
 then as Professor until 1981.  From 1981 -- 1990, Dr. Fischbach was the Edison
 Professor of Neurobiology and Head of the Department of Anatomy and
 Neurobiology at Washington University School of Medicine.
     In 1990, he returned to Harvard Medical School where he was the Nathan
 Marsh Pusey Professor of Neurobiology and Chairman of the Neurobiology
 Departments of Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts General Hospital until
     Dr. Fischbach is a past-President of the Society for Neuroscience and he
 now serves on several medical and scientific advisory boards.  He is a member
 of the National Academy of Sciences, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences
 and the Institute of Medicine, and he is a fellow of the American Association
 for the Advancement of Science and a non-resident Fellow of the Salk
     Throughout his career, Dr. Fischbach has studied the formation and
 maintenance of synapses, the junctions between nerve cells and their targets
 through which information is transferred.  He has been particularly interested
 in the neuromuscular junction, a synapse that is easily accessible to
 experimental manipulation.  He pioneered the use of cultured neurons and
 muscle cells to characterize the biochemical, cellular, and
 electrophysiological mechanisms underlying development and function of the
 neuromuscular junction.
     Beginning in the 1970's, Dr. Fischbach embarked on a search for molecules
 released by motor neurons that regulate the number of acetylcholine receptors
 on muscle cells.  This work culminated in 1993 with the purification and
 cloning of a protein called ARIA (for acetylcholine receptor-inducing
 activity) that stimulates synthesis of acetylcholine receptors by skeletal
 muscle cells.  This molecule is now known to be a member of a family of
 trophic factors called neuregulins that are thought to be involved in a
 variety of important developmental processes in the nervous system.  Because
 ARIA and other neuregulins act by binding to tyrosine kinase receptors on
 target cells, Dr. Fischbach's work was key in demonstrating that synaptic
 development relies upon biochemical mechanisms that are broadly similar to
 those that underlie the action of nerve growth factor and other well known
 trophic molecules.  His current focus is on trophic factors that influence
 synaptic efficacy and nerve cell survival.
     Dr. Fischbach's wife, Ruth, has been appointed Professor of Bioethics in
 Psychiatry at Columbia-Presbyterian  Medical Center.
     Dr. Ruth L. Fischbach served as Senior Advisor for Biomedical Ethics in
 the Office of Extramural Research at NIH.  She also was a member of many NIH
 and inter-agency committees concerned with safeguarding the rights and
 protecting the welfare of participants in research.  Prior to joining NIH, she
 as a bioethicist/medical sociologist at the Harvard Medical School, where she
 was assistant professor in the Department of Social Medicine with joint
 appointments in the Division of Medical Ethics and the Division on Aging.
     Her research efforts have focused on projects involving decisions around
 the end of life, autonomy of the elderly, communication between patients and
 health care professionals, pain assessment and management, and the experiences
 of research subjects particularly as they relate to informed consent.  Her
 current work focuses on research ethics.
     She received a B.S. from Cornell, an M.S. and a Ph.D. from Boston
 University, and an M.P.E. from Washington University.
     The Fischbach's have four children.
     Dr. Fischbach's colleagues and former colleagues at NIH lauded his
 accomplishments there:
     Dr. Harold Varmus, President and CEO of Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer
 Center and former Director of the NIH, said, "At the NIH, Gerry Fischbach's
 keen intelligence and insight helped shape national policy on issues of great
 research and societal sensitivity.  Columbia University is fortunate to have
 attracted someone of Gerry's stature to lead its biomedical area."
     Dr. Richard Klausner, Director of the National Cancer Institute, said
 "Gerry has been a marvelous head of the neurology institute.  He has brought a
 level and a set of expectations for both integrity and expertise that will
 leave their mark.  He will be missed here, and I believe that he will be an
 outstanding head of Columbia's Health Sciences Division.  I look forward to
 watching the great things he will do in New York."
     Columbia's Health Sciences Division encompasses the College of Physicians
 and Surgeons, the Joseph L. Mailman School of Public Health, the School of
 Dental and Oral Surgery, and the School of Nursing.  It also includes the
 Audubon Biomedical Science and Technology Park, New York City's only
 university-related research park, which houses the only biotechnology business
 incubator in the city.
     The Health Sciences Division has more than 40 research and treatment
 centers including the Center for Neurobiology and Behavior, the Center for
 Women's Health, Columbia Genome Center, the Institute of Comparative Medicine,
 the Herbert Irving Comprehensive Cancer, and the Naomi Berrie Diabetes Center.
 It also has affiliations with two dozen hospitals including New York
 Presbyterian Hospital, Harlem Hospital and St. Luke's-Roosevelt Hospital

SOURCE National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Storke at the