Empowered by Pearl Jam

Working together to help the underserved

Sometimes, philanthropy is quiet. And sometimes, it’s just plain loud. When Pearl Jam took to the Safeco Field stage in August 2018 for two “Home Shows,” their rock-and-roll goal was to raise money to combat homelessness in King County. Multiple programs have benefited from the proceeds, including the Service Learning Program at the UW School of Medicine.

“When I heard about these service learning programs, I was so impressed,” says UW Medicine volunteer Rena O’Brien. “These students are doing really amazing work with underserved populations.”

In service learning, medical students help provide healthcare to vulnerable members of society. O’Brien, who’d heard a student talk about a local foot clinic for patients experiencing homelessness, was touched. She reached out to Pearl Jam’s Vitalogy Foundation, then distributing the funds from the Home Shows.

O’Brien isn’t surprised the foundation said “yes” to her request to support service learning. “Pearl Jam shows are not about Pearl Jam. They’re about the community they’re in,” says O’Brien. “The band is all about empowering people.”

Photo courtesy of Pearl Jam

Forbes recognizes youthful influencers

Resident Abdullah Feroze, M.D., wants to develop a vaccine capable of curing pediatric brain tumors. Medical student and researcher Alex Salter, Ph.D. ’18, hopes to create a new generation of T-cell therapies for cancer patients. Both doctors appeared on Forbes’ 2019 “30 Under 30” list. The annual list chronicles entrepreneurs under age 30 across the U.S. and Canada who excel in their fields. Salter is investigating how to enhance the efficacy of CAR T-cell therapy, a technique that utilizes synthetic proteins (CARs) to improve the ability of T cells to detect and destroy cancer cells, at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center. Feroze, working in the UW Department of Neurological Surgery, is researching how a monoclonal antibody vaccine can block or enhance certain cell signals from cancer cells in order to help the immune system destroy them. Not a bad way to spend your 20s!

All of Us — Including You!

Would you like to make medicine better and learn more about your DNA? Consider becoming part of the All of Us Research Program, the nation’s largest-ever genetic study. Created by the National Institutes of Health, and supported by three genome centers (one of them at UW Medicine), All of Us is seeking 1 million+ adults to participate: to provide access to their health records, complete surveys, give samples and (perhaps) wear a sensor. The idea is to track differences in lifestyle, environment, biology and genetic background, and the resulting medical data should make medicine better for, well, all of us. In turn, participants may learn about their own genetic makeup and about drug-gene interactions that will help focus their medical care.

Interested? Visit joinallofus.org/en/how-to-join.

Mice & Maps

The next big step in understanding the human body

The cell atlas project at UW Medicine is ambitious: It aims to catalog all human cell types, pinpointing the location of different cells and the molecular circuits that underlie their function. And researchers in the labs of Jay Shendure, M.D., Ph.D., and Cole Trapnell, Ph.D., have developed a powerful new technology, called sci-ATAC-seq, to take on the project. As described in a recent publication in Cell, the researchers — who are beginning their project with mice, rather than humans — used this new assay to characterize about 100,000 mouse cells. “You need to make several types of measurements on the cells, and the regulatory genome is a very important piece of the equation,” says Andrew Hill, co-first author on the paper. Using sci-ATAC-seq, which helps scientists understand how cells interpret the instructions in their DNA, is a promising start in better understanding how cells are organized into tissues, how the body functions, and what goes wrong in disease.

This research is supported by the Allen Discovery Center program through the Paul G. Allen Frontiers Group and the Brotman Baty Institute for Precision Medicine, a collaboration among UW Medicine, Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center and Seattle Children’s.

A Five-state Legacy

Alumnus John “Jack” Lein, M.D. ’55, the visionary former vice president of health sciences at the University of Washington, saw the need to train more doctors for rural and underserved areas in Washington, Wyoming, Alaska, Montana and Idaho. The creation in 1971 of the regional educational program, now called WWAMI, which aims to train doctors from our region for our region, was a collaboration among Dr. Lein, Robert Van Citters, M.D., and Roy Schwarz, M.D. ’62. It may be Dr. Lein’s greatest legacy. Dr. Lein, 92, died on March 31, 2019. Memorial tributes may be made online.