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Einstein's Dr. Vern Schramm Elected to the National Academy of Sciences

May 1, 2007 -  Vern L. Schramm, Ph.D., Professor and Ruth Merns Chair of Biochemistry at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine of Yeshiva University, has been elected to the National Academy of Sciences, the nation's most prestigious honorary society for scientists. His election was announced today at the Academy's annual meeting in Washington, D.C.

Dr. Schramm has been a member of the Einstein faculty since 1987. Throughout his career, he has carried out groundbreaking research into the mechanisms involved in enzymatic reactions. This work has led to promising drugs now being tested in clinical trials for treating autoimmune diseases and several types of cancer.

Dr. Schramm studies the "transition-state structure" of enzyme-catalyzed reactions - the shapes that reacting molecules assume when enzymes catalyze chemical reactions. As he describes it, "Enzymes govern virtually all of the chemical transformations necessary for biological life but can also influence cells to become cancerous. By knowing the transition-state structure of enzyme-catalyzed reactions, we can design powerful inhibitors that can block those enzymes from acting and thereby treat or prevent cancer and other diseases."

One such inhibitor that Dr. Schramm has designed, known as Immucillin-H, is a promising anticancer agent for treating T-cell malignancies. It is currently in a pivotal phase IIb clinical trial (specifically targeted to study efficacy) at sites in the U.S., eastern and western Europe, and South America.

Another transition-state inhibitor developed by Dr. Schramm is now being studied as a possible treatment for autoimmune diseases such as psoriasis, rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis, and inflammatory bowel disorders and for preventing the rejection of transplanted organs.

The election to the Academy is the latest among numerous honors recognizing Dr. Schramm's many contributions in more than 35 years as a biochemistry researcher and teacher, including the 2006 Repligen Award from the Biological Chemistry Division of the American Chemical Society, election as a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the Rudi Lemberg Award from the Australian Academy of Science, the George A. Sowell Award for Excellence in Teaching from Temple University School of Medicine, and the Harry Eagle Award for Outstanding Basic Science Teaching from the Albert Einstein College of Medicine.

A native of South Dakota, Dr. Schramm earned his bachelor's degree from South Dakota State College. He then earned a Master's degree in nutrition from Harvard University and a Ph.D. in the mechanism of enzyme action from the Australian National University. He returned to the U.S. for his postdoctoral training, serving as a research associate at the NASA Ames Research Center. He then joined Temple University School of Medicine where he was a member of the faculty for 16 years. He came to Einstein in 1987 as professor and chair of Einstein's biochemistry department. He was named Professor and Ruth Merns Chair of Biochemistry in 1995. Dr. Schramm is a resident of New Rochelle, New York.

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