2021 MLC Connects Keynote Presenters
Tuesday, October 19: Dr. Greg Lemke, Professor in the Molecular Neurobiology Laboratory at the Salk Institute
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THE CHALLENGE

To keep the body healthy, immune cells rely on proteins, expressed on their surface, that detect signals and threats. These proteins trigger immune cells to take specific actions, such as attacking a pathogen or clearing away dead cells. Changes in the activity of a class of cell-surface proteins, known as receptor tyrosine kinases, can lead to inflammation, cancer growth and autoimmune diseases, such as lupus, rheumatoid arthritis and multiple sclerosis. In order to understand what goes wrong in cell receptor signaling—and how to fix it—researchers must understand how receptors act and react during an immune response.

 

THE APPROACH

Greg Lemke discovered a family of three-receptor tyrosine kinases, called TAM receptors, which play a crucial role in regulating the response of the immune system to infection from bacteria, viruses and other pathogens. He also discovered how these same receptors mediate the everyday clearance of dead cells and cellular debris. He and his colleagues demonstrated that diminished signaling through TAM receptors (Tyro3, Axl and Mer) or their pathways results in inflammation and autoimmune disease; and conversely, that enhanced TAM signaling leads to the development of cancer. Recently, they have found that the TAM receptors Axl and Mer play a critical role in the immune cells of the brain during the development of Alzheimer’s disease. Understanding the specific roles of each TAM receptor may lead to new classes of drugs to fight infectious, autoimmune and neurodegenerative diseases.

 

THE INNOVATIONS AND DISCOVERIES

• Lemke’s lab unveiled critical differences between the Axl and Mer receptors, and found that they regulate immune cells in inflamed and routine settings, respectively. This distinction points the way to more targeted therapies for autoimmune and cancer treatments.

• The Lemke lab revealed that microglia, the immune sentinels of the brain, require TAM receptors to detect and respond to growing amyloid plaques during Alzheimer’s disease. This discovery may lead to new therapeutic approaches for neurodegeneration.

• Lemke discovered a powerful mechanism by which viruses such as influenza, West Nile and dengue fever evade the body’s immune response and infect humans. A substance called phosphatidylserine, located on the surfaces of these notorious “enveloped” viruses, directly activates TAM receptors to prevent the immune system from launching a response. The finding could lead to new antiviral drugs that block the interaction.

Lemke's presentation will break down into three parts: history of vaccines, current moment with new vaccines, and what’s next on the path to a healthy world. Lemke will allow time for audience questions and answers.

 

Wednesday, October 20: Dr. Dana E. Crawford, Clinical Psychologist and current Scholar-in-Residence at Columbia’s Zuckerman Institute
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Dr. Dana E. Crawford is a clinical psychologist who developed the Crawford Bias Reduction Theory & Training (CBRT), a systematic approach to reducing bias, prejudice, and racism. She has a thriving private practice in Manhattan and has treated patients with high incidences of trauma in Philadelphia, Cincinnati, New Orleans, San Antonio, the Bronx, and New York City.

 

Dr. Crawford is a graduate of Howard, Temple, and Miami universities and has degrees in African-American studies, education, psychology, and the arts. She has certifications in Practical Nursing, medical hypnosis, and biofeedback. Dr. Crawford completed her pediatric psychology residency at Tulane University School of Medicine, followed by a two–year clinical fellowship with the United States Department of Defense, and then a two-year fellowship with the Center for Early Connections at Tulane University. From 2014- 2020, she served as the Director of Education & Training for the Behavioral Health Integration Program and the Director of the Trauma-Informed Care Program at Montefiore Medical Center.

Additionally, Dr. Crawford has held a joint appointment as an Assistant Professor in the Department of Pediatrics and the Department of Psychiatry & Behavioral Sciences at Albert Einstein College of Medicine. In September 2020, she joined Columbia University as a Scholar in Residence in the Zuckerman Mind Brain Behavior Institute. She has conducted hundreds of trainings and presentations in academic, private, non-profit, public, and government sectors focused on bias reduction and trauma-informed care. Her work has been spotlighted in the Harvard Medicine magazine special issue on reducing racism in medicine, and she has spoken at the National Black Caucus, the United Nations (virtually), and a plethora of other high-profile events.  Dr. Crawford’s life’s work is dedicated to reducing the humanitarian crisis of racial trauma.

Dr. Crawford's session will hold space for reflection around practices of Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging. With Dr. Crawford's expert guidance, participants will be prompted to plan their own actions within the context of their organization's science outreach missions.

We look forward to seeing you (virtually) at the MLC Connects Conference. If you have questions or suggestions, please reach out to mobilelabcoalition@gmail.com

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