Physician-Researcher Jochen Reiser, M.D., Ph.D., Recognized for Scholarly Activity

Jochen Reiser, M.D., Ph.D., the Peggy and Harold Katz Professor and vice chair for research in the Department of Medicine, chief of the Division of Nephrology and Hypertension and a pioneering physician-scientist whose translational research is redefining our understanding of chronic kidney diseases, is the recipient of the 2012 Provost’s Award for Scholarly Activity.

Reiser, who is also director of the Peggy and Harold Katz Family Miami Drug Discovery Institute, is a leader in the field of proteinuric kidney disease, studying cells called podocytes, which are critical elements of the kidney filter.

“His scientific breadth, spirit and work are changing how we practice medicine,” said Pascal J. Goldschmidt, M.D., Senior Vice President for Medical Affairs and Dean of the Miller School, in his nomination letter. “As part of his studies, he discovered the first circulating blood factor and its modus operandi, a discovery that most scientists would label as the ‘holy grail of nephrology.’”

Published in the July 31 edition of the journal Nature Medicine, Reiser’s work has solved a decades-long search for the cause of a significant form of chronic kidney disease – focal segmental glomerulosclerosis (FSGS). Working with mouse models and a bank of patient samples, he and Changli Wei, M.D., Ph.D., assistant professor of medicine in the Division of Nephrology and Hypertension, led a team of national and international researchers and physicians in discovering that a soluble form of the urokinase plasminogen activator receptor (suPAR) is a factor in causing glomerular kidney disease.

“The discovery of the first circulating factor for FSGS has the potential to ipact the lives of the many patients who have kidney disease,” said Reiser. “I am truly excited and grateful for this honor, and I share it with my team and all the supporters who nurtured this work.”

Also receiving the award were Alexandra L. Quittner, Ph.D., professor of psychology in the College of Arts and Sciences, who is recognized for her empirical research program focusing on the care and treatment regimens of children with chronic cystic fibrosis and asthma, and Mark Rowlands, D.Phil., professor of philosophy in the College of Arts and Sciences, whose published works have had an international impact.

“It is a privilege to be able to recognize publicly the extraordinary scholarly achievements of these three distinguished University of Miami faculty,” said Thomas J. LeBlanc, executive vice president and provost. “Research is at the heart of what we do as an institution, and these awardees, through their original research and other scholarly activity, bring honor to our University and serve as wonderful role models for our students and faculty.”

The recipients were honored during a private ceremony at the Newman Alumni Center on April 2.

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