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Carnegie Institution in Top 1% of Charities for Best Fiscal Management

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Charity Navigator, America's largest charity evaluator, has awarded the Carnegie Institution of Washington its highest rating, 4 stars, for sound fiscal management for 7 years running. Receiving the top-star rating indicates that an organization excels, compared with other charities in the United States, in successful financial management.

Charity Navigator evaluates over 5,300 charities and only 12 have received a 4-star rating 7 years in a row, putting Carnegie in the top percent.

Charity Navigator’s letter stated: “We are proud to announce [the] Carnegie Institution of Washington
has earned our seventh consecutive 4-star rating for its ability to efficiently manage and grow its finances. Only 2% of the charities we've rated have received at least 6 consecutive 4-star evaluations, indicating that [the] Carnegie Institution of Washington outperforms most charities in America in its efforts to operate in the most fiscally responsible way possible. This ‘exceptional’ designation from Charity Navigator differentiates [the] Carnegie Institution of Washington from its peers and demonstrates to the public it is worthy of their trust.”

Charity Navigator bases its analyses on the financial information each charity provides annually in “its informational tax returns, or IRS Forms 990.” During the last year, 85.9% of Carnegie expenses went toward scientific programs, while 13.9% was expended for administrative and fund-raising purposes.

Andrew Carnegie would be pleased to know how carefully we are managing the institution’s funds,” commented Carnegie president Richard Meserve. “His goal was to keep administrative costs low so that we can support the high-risk, high-reward scientific research for which the institution has become known. This record demonstrates that the legacy continues.”


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Source: Carnegie Institution of Washington
Time Stamp: 4/9/2008 at 9:08:27 AM CST

Sandia/California named a fit business by the California Wellness Task Force

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Sandia National Laboratories’ California site has met the gold standard, at least according to the California Task Force on Youth and Workplace Wellness. The lab’s Preventive Health and Life Design Center (LDC) initiative has been honored by the task force with a 2007 California Fit Business Award, a program that seeks and recognizes business models that promote a healthier workplace.

The California Fit Business Awards recognize the value of a fit and healthy workplace to organizations and workers alike. Sandia health promotion coordinator and educator Morgan Edwinson was presented with a Gold trophy by State Senator Tom Torlakson at a Nov. 8 ceremony in Sacramento. The Gold award is the highest level of recognition in the program.

The awards program is a coordinated effort between the California Task Force on Youth and Workplace Wellness and the California Department of Health Services, 5 a Day – Be Active! Worksite Program. The annual awards program was first launched in 2003 with private and non-profit companies across California seeking to recognize business models that promote a healthier workplace.

It’s nice to see how Sandia is doing compared to other companies,” says Edwinson. “We think we are doing a good job, and it’s nice to see that proven against an established benchmark.” The award is especially gratifying, says Edwinson, in that the recognition comes from an outside entity with established standards and references.

One of the hallmarks of Sandia/California’s health and wellness programs is its Life Design Center (LDC). The LDC offers exercise classes such as tai chi, yoga, circuit training, and outdoor, mentor-led walking groups. Health/risk assessments and fitness challenges are also a key part of the program. The “Maintain No Gain” program is currently underway, for example, challenging  participants not to gain any weight during the holiday season.

Edwinson says providing better nutrition at the lab has been a recent focus in response to negative feedback about the lack of healthy food choices. The LDC team set about improving choices at the on site grab-and-go deli, vending machines and through catering. The goal, she says, is to stock vending machines with at least 50 percent healthy, balanced choices.

We’ve developed a program by which we go beyond the basic health/risk assessment,” says Edwinson. “We have protocols in place to follow up and keep people on track.”

In the five years that the LDC has been open, there have been 730 active participants. About 70 people use the LDC each work day, says Edwinson.

While Edwinson is pleased with the achievement, she’s not resting on her laurels. “We want to continue following up on health/risk assessments and improving nutrition on site,” she says. “We’ve seen good results from our follow-ups, but we’ll have a better picture in a couple of years.” The next step, she says, is to link illness, attendance and productivity with participation in LDC programs.

More than 80 employers were honored this year with a California Fit Business Award.

Source: Sandia National Laboratories
Time Stamp: 11/13/2007 at 11:28:11 PM CST

CDC Scientist Awarded China′s Highest Honor for Outstanding Contributions to Public Health

Oct. 06, 2007

Robert E. Fontaine, M.D., CDC senior epidemiologist and Resident Advisor to the U.S. Field Epidemiology Training Program in Beijing, China, has been honored with the Friendship Award of 2007. The Friendship Award is the highest honor given by the Chinese government to recognize non-Chinese experts who have made outstanding contributions to China′s social and economic development. The award was presented by Chinese Vice Premier Zeng Peiyan in the Great Hall of the People during the 58th National Day Celebration of China.

Fontaine was recognized for his dedication since 2003 to improving the public health system in China, particularly through the establishment of infectious disease laboratory capacity, and strengthening of surveillance, rapid response, and containment of transmission of the H5N1 avian influenza virus.

"Bob Fontaine embodies CDC′s global health diplomacy goal -- that CDC and the United States government are trusted and effective resources for health development and health protection around the world," said CDC Director Julie Louise Gerberding, M.D. "His scientific integrity and talents in teaching have resulted in an unprecedented health ambassadorship between this country and the Chinese people."

Rapid, effective investigation of outbreaks has been a hallmark of the China Field Epidemiology Training Program (FETP) during Dr. Fontaine′s tenure. Trainees have conducted more than 200 outbreak investigations, 131 surveillance projects and 44 planned field studies, including poliomyelitis, measles, plague, scarlet fever, typhoid and, rabies, dengue fever, and typhoon-related injuries.

During the awards ceremony, Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao told the award winners, "One day you will grow old. At that time, when you think about the days you spent in China, and the contributions you made for 1.3 billion Chinese people, you will certainly feel gratified. And all our Chinese people will appreciate your contributions from the bottom of our hearts."

Dr. Fontaine joined the China FETP in 2003. Specific contributions since then include:

  • Design and execution of a major investigation of mysterious clusters of sudden unexplained deaths among all age groups in remote villages of Yunnan Province.

  • Identification of the first foodborne transmission of scarlet fever in a middle school in the Zhejiang province.

Dr. Fontaine received his BS in entomology (1968) and his MD (1972) from the University of California-Davis and received his MSc in medical parasitology (1981) from the London School of Tropic Medicine and Hygiene. As an Epidemic Intelligence Service (EIS) officer at the CDC between 1973 and 1975, he worked in viral diseases and served four months in India on smallpox eradication. He followed his EIS training with a CDC assignment to the Colorado State Health Department, followed by a three year assignment at CDC′s Central American Research Station where he worked on malaria surveillance, epidemiology and control. In 1987 he began developing field epidemiology training programs, first in Saudi Arabia, followed by Jordan and Central America.

Source: CDC
Time Stamp: 10/6/2007 at 5:15:50 AM CST

Innovator Award to Berkeley Lab's Joe Gray for Improved Breast Cancer Screening

Monday, October 1, 2007

A grant totaling almost $8 million has been awarded to Joe Gray, Director of the Life Sciences Division of the Department of Energy's Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, in the form of an Innovator Award from the Department of Defense Breast Cancer Research Program (BCRP). Through BCRP, DOD is the second largest funding agency for breast cancer research in the world.

Gray leads a multi-institutional team with collaborators from the Breast Oncology Program at the University of California at San Francisco, the University of California at Berkeley, other members of Berkeley Lab's Life Sciences Division, and Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. The goal of their project, as originally conceived by Gray and Laura Esserman, co-leaders of UC San Francisco's Breast Oncology Program, is to greatly improve breast cancer screening and reduce mortality from breast cancer.

All cancer screening programs seek to reduce mortality by detecting and treating cancer as early as possible, and by identifying and completely removing precancerous lesions surgically before they develop into tumors. Screening programs have helped dramatically reduce incidence and mortality from colon cancer and cervical cancer. But for breast cancer, screening based on mammograms has been less successful.

"Current mammographic screening strategies do not seem to be detecting the lesions that are precursors to the most invasive breast cancers," Gray says. "Genomic studies by my colleagues and I have identified two subtypes of breast cancers that are far more likely to be lethal, and which can be identified by their characteristic gene products. Yet standard mammography techniques apparently are not finding the precursors of these subtypes before they become malignant."

Needed: new ways of imaging

Two things are necessary to improve this situation, Gray says. The first is better anatomical imaging. Most mammography is currently based on film images taken with x-rays, which can detect tiny calcium concentrations in the breast associated with areas of high tissue density. But microcalcifications may not signal the lesions most likely to become invasive and lethal.

Other imaging techniques such as magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and positron emission tomography (PET) promise increased sensitivity for detection of early disease and for lesions whose increased metabolic activity is characteristic of cancer precursors. However, both MRI and PET require further development to target metastasis-prone lesions.

A second need is the ability to accurately map the full extent of a precancerous lesion or tumor once it has been identified, so the surgeon can be confident of removing all cancerous cells. Although some metastasis-prone lesions can be identified by their shapes or protein characteristics, no distinguishing physical characteristics have been found for other lethal types. What's required is improved imaging of the tissue in which the lesion or tumor occurs, based on its peculiar pattern of gene expression.

"Our goals in this project are to improve both these processes — anatomical imaging that can identify the precursors of the most lethal breast cancer subtypes, and sensitive histopathologic detection to precisely map the potentially lethal lesions at the cellular level," says Gray. "We plan to develop MRI, PET, mass spectrometry imaging, and other techniques that can detect specific gene-expression signatures — the tell-tale protein products of these subtypes — on the basis of individual cells."

Someday, the screening process that Gray and his colleagues envision will identify individuals at high risk for breast cancer using high-throughput analytical methods such as blood tests and measurements of breast volumetric density. Individuals identified in this way will then be assessed using new imaging technologies, which will pinpoint any lethal precursor lesions by their molecular characteristics. To map these lesions with precision to insure successful surgery, tissue sections will be imaged using mass spectrometry to find cells that express the genes specifically associated with the most lethal cancer types.

Getting down to specifics, cell by cell

For cell-specific anatomical imaging, Gray and collaborators Matthew Francis of UC Berkeley and Berkeley Lab, Jim O'Neil and Scott Taylor of Berkeley Lab, and James Marks of UC San Francisco will investigate PET and MRI using agents carried in viral capsids. Capsids are the shells of viruses whose RNA genomes have been removed; the capsids are used to carry reagents that increase image contrast. The outside of the shells will be decorated with antibodies specifically targeting the protein gene products characteristic of the lethal cancer subtypes.

In addition, the researchers will consider quantum dots, nanocrystals that have been modified to bind to specific molecules and fluoresce when illuminated by a laser, or to increase the strength of MRI signals when combined with marker atoms. Laura Esserman, Karla Kerlikowske, and Nola Hylton at UC San Francisco and Damir Sudar at Berkeley Lab will also explore ways to improve conventional MRI and x-ray mammography by developing digital imaging algorithms that can better recognize metastasis-prone lesions.

For sensitive histopathologic detection — the precise mapping of lesions and tumors — Gray will work with Marks and Richard Baehner of UCSF and Frank Chen of Berkeley Lab to develop in situ hybridization and immunohistochemical techniques to identify protein products typical of the genomes of the most lethal cancer subtypes. In collaboration with James Felton at Livermore, they will analyze these molecular signatures by scanning the tissue sample with an ion beam to knock off constituent molecules, which differ by mass; this "secondary ion mass spectrometry" of the tissue section will reveal even single cells that carry the lethal genotypes.

Better screening for the most lethal subtypes of breast cancer will catch more of these cancers before they metastasize, increasing the odds that the lesion or tumor is entirely removed in surgery. Gray and his colleagues are also investigating drug treatments aimed at the newly identified lethal subtypes, in addition to treatments based on nanoparticles carried in lipids, and nucleic acid constructs that could prevent potential cancer cells from becoming immortal. These approaches to treatment will benefit greatly from improved anatomical and histopathological imaging strategies.  

Gray notes that this project is based on work carried out over the last decade in the Breast Oncology Program at UC San Francisco under the auspices of the Bay Area Breast Cancer Specialized Program of Research Excellence (SPORE). Notification of Gray's new grant, designated a Fiscal Year 2006 Innovator Award, was first recommended for funding in June of 2007 and recently confirmed with the completion of a contract between the Department of the Army, the University of California, and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.

Image Caption 1: Joe W. Gray is Director of the Life Sciences Division at Berkeley Lab and co-leader of the Breast Oncology Program at UC San Francisco.
Image Credit 1: Roy Kaltschmidt
Image Caption 2: One method of improving anatomical imaging that targets the most lethal cancer subtypes involves decorating the capsids of viruses with antibodies to characteristic protein products of the target cells (left), and replacing the contents of the virus with agents that increase image contrast in MRI and PET (right).
Image Caption 3: By scanning tissue samples of lesions and tumors with an ion beam that knocks off molecules of proteins typical of the most lethal cancer subtypes (left), then mapping the position of these secondary ions, mass spectrometry can produce images (right) that reveal even single cells carrying the lethal genotypes.
Image Credit 2 – 3: Berkeley National Laboratory
Source: Berkeley National Laboratory
Time Stamp: 10/1/2007 at 2:46:14 PM CST

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