The Gail and Elkan Blout Lecture: “One hundred years of sleeping sickness: sex, drugs and RNA”

Date(s) - 07/28/2012
8:30 am - 9:30 am
Starr 209

The Gail and Elkan Blout Lecture
“One hundred years of sleeping sickness: sex, drugs and RNA”
Isabel Roditi, University of Berne, Switzerland
July 28, 2012, Starr 209, 8:30 AM

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Isabel RoditiIsabel Roditi, Ph.D.
Professor Roditi is co-director of the Institute of Cell Biology at the University of Berne in Switzerland. She received her Ph.D. in 1983 from the University of Cambridge, Wolfson College, and her D.Habil. in 1993 from the University of Berne. She did postdoctoral work with the Medical Research Council in Cambridge and later at the Institute for Genetics and Toxicology at Karlsruhe University in Germany. In 1993 she received the Helmut Horten Förderpreis, and, in 2001, she received the Cloetta Prize; in 2001, she was elected a member of the Swiss Academy of Medical Sciences.

Dr. Roditi’s research interests focus on surface proteins that govern survival and transmission of Trypanosoma brucei, the parasite that causes sleeping sickness, by its insect host, the tsetse fly. Using a fully transmissible strain of T. brucei enables her to monitor the parasite throughout its life cycle in the fly. The long-range goal of such studies is to find ways to interrupt transmission of the disease.


About the Gail and Elkan Blout Lecture:   This lectureship is named after Elkan Blout and his wife, Gail.

Elkan Rogers Blout was born in Manhattan in 1919. After graduating from Princeton, he earned a doctorate in chemistry from Columbia in 1942. In the 1950s, Dr. Blout pursued parallel but distinct paths at Harvard and at the Polaroid Corporation, where he was a vice president and general manager of research.  At Polaroid, he led the team that worked out the color developing process for the company’s signature instant film, creating new photographic dyes and developing agents and discovering ways to make them in quantity. At the same time, Dr. Blout was embarking on biochemical research at Harvard, studying peptides and polypeptides, which are building blocks in assembling the body’s proteins. In 1962, he left industry to devote his energy to synthesizing peptides in the laboratory and to examining their structures. A former student of Dr. Blout’s at Harvard said he was “highly respected for the quality and rigorousness of his research,” but he was also known as a warm and supportive lab head. “Everyone really loved working with him, [and] he fostered a very good feeling wherever he went.”

From 1978 to 1989, Dr. Blout was dean for academic affairs at Harvard’s School of Public Health. In the 1990s he became a senior adviser for science at the Food and Drug Administration, where he reviewed standards, helped plan for the agency’s future staff and laboratory needs, and coordinated research conducted by its scientists. In 1990, he was awarded a National Medal of Science. He retired from Harvard in 1991.

Dr. Blout died on December 20, 2006 at the age of 87. He is survived by two sons, James, of Concord, Massachusetts, and William, of Lexington, Massachusetts; two daughters, Susan Merry Lausch, of Chicago, and Darya, of Cambridge; and 10 grandchildren and 4 great-grandchildren. Gail Blout lives in Cambridge and Marion, Massachusetts.

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