Newswise — BOSTON – Martin R. Pollak, MD, Chief of Nephrology at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC) and Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School, is among 84 new members and 21 foreign associates elected to the National Academy of Sciences (NAS). NAS fellows are chosen for distinguished and continuing achievements in original research.
The NAS is a private, nonprofit institution that was established under a congressional charter signed by President Lincoln in 1863. The academy recognizes achievement in science through election to its membership, and it also provides science, engineering and health policy advice to the federal government and other organizations. Scientists are elected by their peers to membership, and as the role of science has expanded in the United States, the National Academy has grown to include the Institute of Medicine, the National Academy of Engineering and the National Research Council.
Pollak joins BIDMC’s Richard Sidman, MD, as an NAS member. BIDMC faculty members Jeffrey S. Flier, MD, Jerome E. Groopman, MD, Barbara B. Kahn, MD, Clifford B. Saper, MD, PhD, and Sharon K. Inouye, MD, MPH, are elected members of the Institute of Medicine.
Pollak’s research has identified the genes involved in the development of focal segmental glomerulosclerosis (FSGS), a common form of renal injury which disproportionately strikes African Americans. His work has shown that two common coding sequence variants in the APOL1 gene confer both resistance to trypanosome b. rhodiesiense infection (an African sleeping sickness agent) and a seven-to-ten-fold increased susceptibility to FSGS and hypertension-associated kidney disease.
“Of the half a million people in the U.S. with kidney disease, one in three are African American,” says Mark Zeidel, MD, PhD, Chairman of Medicine at BIDMC. “Martin Pollak’s discovery that the APOL1 gene confers this risk helps us in our efforts to address and, hopefully, eliminate this disease disparity.”
“Martin Pollak’s investigations into the genetics and biology of this widespread disease hold great promise for the field of nephrology,” adds BIDMC Chief Academic Officer Vikas P. Sukhatme, MD, PhD. “The next key step will be to identify the mechanisms by which mutations in the APOL1 gene lead to a greater propensity for kidney damage. This innovative research is a tremendous example of how laboratory discoveries reach our patients, and could help clinicians to better tailor treatments to specific forms of kidney disease. Dr. Pollak’s election to the NAS is a reflection of this critically important work.”
A graduate of Princeton University, Pollak received his medical degree from New York University School of Medicine and completed postdoctoral training in medicine and genetics at Harvard Medical School, where he is currently Professor of Medicine. He is an Associate Member of the Broad Institute.
Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center is a patient care, teaching and research affiliate of Harvard Medical School, and currently ranks third in National Institutes of Health funding among independent hospitals nationwide.
The BIDMC health care team includes Beth Israel Deaconess Hospital-Milton, Beth Israel Deaconess Hospital-Needham, Beth Israel Deaconess Hospital-Plymouth, Anna Jaques Hospital, Cambridge Health Alliance, Lawrence General Hospital, Signature Health Care, Commonwealth Hematology-Oncology, Beth Israel Deaconess HealthCare, Community Care Alliance, and Atrius Health. BIDMC is also clinically affiliated with the Joslin Diabetes Center and Hebrew Senior Life and is a research partner of Dana-Farber/Harvard Cancer Center. BIDMC is the official hospital of the Boston Red Sox. For more information, visit www.bidmc.org.