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Marker Lectures in Genetic Engineering Scheduled for January 23 and 24

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17 January 2017

William Jacobs, Jr.William R. Jacobs, Jr., professor of microbiology and immunology and professor of genetics at Albert Einstein College of Medicine, and Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator, will present the Russell Marker Lectures in Genetic Engineering on January 23 and 24, 2017 at the Penn State University Park campus. The free public lectures are sponsored by the Penn State Eberly College of Science.

The series includes a lecture intended for a general audience, titled “Pursuing Edward Jenner’s Revenge: Why a Herpes Vaccine Will Lead to a Tuberculosis Vaccine,” at 5:00 p.m. on Monday, January 23, in the Berg Auditorium, 100 Life Sciences Building.  Jacobs will also give a more specialized lecture, titled “The Key Role of FcR Activating Antibodies in Generating ‘Sterilizing’ Immunity against Herpes Simplex Virus,” at 11:00 a.m. on Tuesday, January 24, in the Foster Auditorium, 102 Paterno Library.

Jacobs pioneered the use of molecular genetics to control tuberculosis (TB) by working on viruses that infect the TB bacteria, called mycobacteriophages. He used mycobacteriophages to experimentally introduce foreign DNA into TB bacteria for the first time in 1987. Jacobs used these phages to develop transformation systems, transposon systems, and efficient allelic exchange systems, all of which now are routinely used by TB researchers around the world. He also devised an onsite lab test that can quickly diagnose TB. This test can distinguish treatable TB strains from those that are drug resistant by causing them to glow like a lightning bug. These reporter mycobacteriophages allow for drug susceptibilities to be determined in as little as two days, a process that ordinarily takes months. Jacobs' lab also has uncovered previously unknown mechanisms of drug action, mechanisms of drug resistance, and virulence factors of TB bacteria.

In addition, Jacobs has worked to develop a new vaccine that provides complete protection against herpes simplex virus. Current efforts of his group are focused on using weakened bacterial mutants and herpesviruses to generate vaccines against a variety of different diseases.

Jacobs earned a bachelor of science degree in mathematics from Edinboro University of Pennsylvania in 1977. He pursued bacterial genetics in graduate school at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, earning a doctoral degree in 1985. While in graduate school, Jacobs generated the first genomic libraries of the bacteria that causes leprosy. He began his postdoctoral work in 1985 at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine, working to develop genetics methods for studying Mycobacterium tuberculosis, the bacteria that causes TB.

Jacobs became a member of the National Academy of Sciences in 2013 and was elected as a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in 2011. His other awards include the Marshall Horwitz Lecture Award in 2013, the Gardner Middlebrook Life-Time Achievement Award in 2003, the Ellison Medical Foundation Senior Scholar Award in Global Infectious Disease in 2001, and the Burroughs Wellcome Fund Award in 2000.

The Marker Lectures were established in 1984 through a gift from Russell Earl Marker, professor emeritus of chemistry at Penn State, whose pioneering synthetic methods revolutionized the steroid-hormone industry and opened the door to the current era of hormone therapies, including the birth-control pill. The Marker endowment allows the Penn State Eberly College of Science to present annual Marker Lectures in astronomy and astrophysics, the chemical sciences, evolutionary biology, genetic engineering, the mathematical sciences, and physics.

[ S J S ]

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