President’s Message

Pioneering the Future of Research

Michael Salem, MD, President and CEO

Pioneering research has been an integral part of National Jewish Health since 1915 when we established the nation’s first research department separate from clinical care and laboratories and built the first dedicated research building outside a university campus in the U.S. Research is vital to our institution for promoting basic discovery; understanding disease origins and medication effects; and translating discoveries to medical advancements.

National Jewish Health continues to be a leader in integrating research and clinical efforts on many fronts. Our research is aimed at many areas including: epigenetic changes, vaccine adjuvants, and lung genomics. We continue to build translational research programs in asthma, COPD, cardiology, lung and other cancers, immunology, inflammation and infectious diseases and allergies.

As we help shape the future of individualized medicine and professional education, we will keep you informed about our work here. 

Included in this newsletter are highlights from some of our research areas. We will share more results with you in the future in this newsletter and at

Best regards,


Michael Salem, MD, President and CEO


Research Highlights

Over the years, our basic, clinical and translational researchers have conducted focused, cutting-edge research resulting in many groundbreaking discoveries and garnering much deserved national and international recognition and awards.

Here are a few of our accomplishments:

  • 1920  Developed a new culture medium for growing tubercle vacillus
  • 1940s-50s—Combined individualized chemotherapy treatment for tuberculosis and thoracic and cardiac surgery programs.
  • 1960-70s—The first clinically useful method of diagnosing asthma and discovery of IgE.
  • 1980s—Isolated and identified of one of two genes that code for the human T cell receptor and discovered superantigens
  • 1990s—Rated by Science Watch as the top private institution in immunology research in the world.
  • 2000s—Found a promising new anti-IgE treatment; created a new treatment for airway hyperresponsiveness; developed and patented a culture medium to easily grow mycobacterium tuberculosis; developed a peptide vaccine that binds strongly to naturally occurring T cells and stimulates them to vigorously attack cancer cells in mice


Research Updates

Division of Cell Biology


Scientists Ready to Apply Scientific Knowledge to Treatments

David W. H. Riches, PhD, Division Head, Cell Biology, Department of PediatricsCell biologist David Riches, PhD, has spent much of his 30-year career determining why fibroblasts won’t die and negatively affect the healing process. In recent years, he and others have discovered that phosphatases disrupt the biological pathway leading to fibroblast death.

Our scientists believe these phosphatases hold real promise as a therapeutic target for idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis. They believe they will be able to block each individual phosphatase with a small molecule. Small molecules make good medications because they can be manufactured inexpensively and are better absorbed by the body than large biomolecules used in many medications.

Dr. Riches and National Jewish Health colleagues Gregory Downey, MD and Peter Henson, PhD are planning to evaluate the effects of a variety of small molecules against phosphatases in cell culture and animal studies, then move the most promising candidates into human trials as rapidly as possible.  



Pediatric Clinical Pharmacology

Stanley J. Szefler, MD, Head, Pediatric Clinical Pharmacology, Co-Director, Weinberg Clinical Research Unit, Director Pediatraic Clinical Trials Center, Helen Wohlberg & Herman Lambert Chair - PharmacokineticsDr. Stanley Szefler’s major research efforts are directed toward the appropriate use of long-term control therapy in asthma, including the recognition of variability in response to asthma therapy.  His recent work has included the identification of biomarkers and asthma characteristics that can be used to predict and thus, individualize asthma therapy.



2010 Research Activities Include:

  • Principal Investigator for the National Jewish site of the NHLBI Childhood Asthma Management Program (CAMP) since 1991. This study was initially designed to assessed the role of anti-inflammatory therapy in asthma management, but has since developed into a study of the natural history of mild to moderate persistent asthma in children. Over 100 publications have resulted from this study and the CAMP Research Group has recently described the various lung development patterns that have emerged. This work was summarized at the 2010 American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (AAAAI) meeting.  Dr. Szefler and his colleagues are now studying the relationship of these lung development patterns to chronic airway obstruction and asthma morbidity in young adults.
  • Dr. Szefler is also the Principal Investigator for the National Jewish site of the NHLBI Childhood Asthma Research and Education (CARE) Network, and a co-investigator in the NHLBI Asthma Clinical Research Network (ACRN).  Both of these networks are completing their work with a flurry of publications from recently completed studies including presentations at the AAAAI and American Thoracic Society meetings.
  • Dr. Szefler is also an investigator in the NIAID Inner-City Asthma Consortium (ICAC).  He lead a recently published study on the use of exhaled nitric oxide in guiding asthma therapy (4) and he is now leading a study on methods to reduce fall asthma exacerbations in inner city children.

This has been a very exciting year for Dr. Szefler and his research team. He wishes to say hello and to thank the many fellows-in-training from both the allergy-immunology and pulmonary training programs that have participated in the research projects he has conducted since he came to National Jewish Health in 1982.


Allergy and Clinical Immunology

Rohit Katial, MD, Program Director, Adult Allergy & Immunology, Director Weinberg Clinical Research Unit, Director Allergy & Immunology Clinical Services

The research of Rohit Katial, MD, is focused on the mechanism of aspirin sensitivity, aspirin desensitization and immunotherapy. Here are two of his recent findings:

The effect of aspirin desensitization on novel biomarkers in aspirin-exacerbated respiratory disease as published in J Allergy Clin Immunol (Vol 126, Num 4*). Dr. Katial, et al, concluded that “acute aspirin desensitization in patients with  aspirin-exacerbated respiratory disease involves mast cell degranulation. Long-term treatment with aspirin involves suppression of IL-4 as well as down regulation of proinflammatory MMP-9 while TH1 marker FLT3-L increases.”*

Safety profile, pharmacokinetics, and biologic activity of MEDI-563, an antiIL-5 receptior a antibody, in a phase I study of subjects with mild asthma as reported in J Allergy Clin Immunol (Vol125, Num 6 ). Dr. Katial and colleagues “demonstrated that MEDI-563 had an acceptable safety profile in subjects with mild atopic asthma at all doses tested. After a single intravenous dose =0.3 mg/kg, PB eosinopenia persisted for at least 12 weeks. Further evaluation is planned to determine whether the changes observed in eosinophil counts will result in clinical improvements of diseases associated with elevated circulating or tissue-infiltrating eosinophils like asthma.”  


Great to See You at AAAAI

Thank you for attending our reception at the recent AAAAI Meeting. We hope you enjoyed our speakers:  Dan Atkins, MD, Hal Nelson, MD and Mark Holbreich, MD. We appreciate you sharing your time with us and your contributions to the Hal Nelson Endowed Fellowship Chair.


Harold Nelson Endowed Fellowship Chair

Thank you to all of you who have donated to fund the Harold Nelson Endowed Fellowship Chair. We are more than halfway to our $500,000 goal!

Ten years ago, a group of former fellows created the Fellowship to support a two-year training of one fellow in Allergy and Immunology. Dr. Nelson is an internationally recognized expert in allergies and has taught and mentored many former fellows in the specialty. 

Please help us honor him with this endowment that will create a self-sufficient Fellowship to further the education and training of a deserving student. Designate your contribution to The Harold Nelson Endowed Fellowship today.


Diagnostic Advances

Patent for Diagnostic Method of Autoimmune Chronic Urticaria  

National Jewish Health has received a US patent for a method of detecting autoimmune chronic urticaria, which will help assure many patients that dramatic changes in lifestyle are not needed to treat the condition. Ronald Harbeck, PhD, of the Advanced Diagnostic Laboratories at National Jewish Health, and colleagues Drs. Karen Andrews and Donald MacGlashan, Jr. developed the diagnostic assay, which makes use of the protein CD203c as a marker for the condition. The test, offered by the diagnostic laboratories at National Jewish Health, has been highly successful, with 250 to 300 tests run every week for patients around the nation.

The invented method includes detecting the expression of the protein CD203c on cells in the presence of the antibody present in chronic urticaria patients.

“The creation of this diagnostic test is a reflection of the quality of research performed by our scientists and the commitment from National Jewish Health to support the advancement of research discoveries towards clinical applications in the spirit of our brand promise, Science Transforming Life,” said Emmanuel Hilaire, PhD, Manager of the Technology Transfer Office at National Jewish Health.


Genetic Test - Filaggrin Gives New Insights into Managing Your Atopic Patient

As one of the largest immunologic organs, the skin is affected by both internal and external factors and both innate and adaptive immune responses. Among the immune mediated skin disorders are atopic dermatitis, contact dermatitis, urticaria, angioedema, psoriasis, and autoimmune blistering disorders.

Severe atopic dermatitis (AD) is often complicated by colonization/infections with Staphylococcus aureus, including methicillin resistant strains (MRSA). Mutations in the filaggrin gene (FLG) have been associated with severity of AD with predisposition to development of disease, or risk of disease progression from AD to asthma. A newly diagnosed AD patient may be treated more aggressively if a filaggrin risk genotype is present and monitored more carefully for development of asthma.

Filaggrin is a major component of the cornified cell envelope, an essential skin layer that acts as a water barrier and inhibits the entry of microbes, allergens and irritants. Loss-of-function mutations in the FLG reduce the expression of the filaggrin protein in the skin.

The Advanced Diagnostic Laboratories (ADx) at National Jewish Health has developed a comprehensive skin disease testing menu that enables diagnosis, early clinical intervention, and management of immunologic and allergic skin diseases and now includes a genetic test for filaggrin (FLG) mutations associated with atopic dermatitis.

For more information please call 303.398.1420 or visit


Professional Education Opportunities

Alumni News copyright 2011 by National Jewish Health and published for Former Fellows.

Editor, Cyndy Mitchell,
Interim Marketing Manager,