Office of Institutional Advancement

Investiture of Piera Pasinelli, PhD

Investiture of Piera Pasinelli, PhD

Dr. Mark Tykocinski, Dr. Piera Pasinelli, and Dr. Stephen Klasko at the Investiture of Piera Pasinelli, PhD on May 10, 2016

Renowned researcher and co-director of the Frances and Joseph Weinberg Unit for ALS Research at Thomas Jefferson University, Piera Pasinelli, PhD has been named the first holder of the Frances and Joseph Weinberg Professorship in Neuroscience. Longtime Jeffersonians Vickie and Jack Farber and members of the Jefferson community gathered at Jefferson Alumni Hall on Tuesday, May 10, for an investiture ceremony celebrating Dr. Pasinelli’s appointment and the world-class research that is being conducted by the Jefferson Neuroscience team.

President and CEO of Thomas Jefferson University and Jefferson Health, Stephen K. Klasko, MD, MBA, Provost of Thomas Jefferson University and the Anthony F. and Gertrude M. DePalma Dean of Sidney Kimmel Medical College, Mark L. Tykocinski, MD, and Executive Vice President and Chief Development Officer, Elizabeth A. Dale, EdD were also in attendance and delivered remarks thanking Dr. Pasinelli and her team for their commitment to the study of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) research.

“Research, fantastic interdisciplinary clinical care, translational research, a fantastic donor, and a society built around caring: that is our vision personified. What we’re doing today and our vision to reimagine healthcare, education and discovery to create unparalleled value, lives in the heart and soul of Vickie and Jack Farber and Piera Pasinelli,” said Dr. Klasko.

Dr. Pasinelli joined Thomas Jefferson University in 2006 as the co-director of the area’s first and only research unit dedicated to the study of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) research efforts.

One of her most productive lines of inquiry involves improving the efficacy of Riluzole, the only FDA-approved medication for ALS, which slows the disease’s progression. Pasinelli and her colleagues have shown that the drug’s efficacy plummets after six months and is largely ineffective within a year due to an over reactive component of the blood-brain barrier.

Under her direction and in partnership with The ALS Association Greater Philadelphia Chapter, Jefferson expanded its ALS program in January, 2016, adding a multidisciplinary clinic to complement its laboratories. In the clinic, a team of medical and research specialists provides compassionate, knowledgeable, 360-degree care to patients with ALS and their families. It’s a big step forward for comprehensive ALS patient care, but it’s not the last that Dr. Pasinelli intends to achieve.

“For me personally, this professorship is a reminder of how much work still needs to be done, and is an incentive to never stop fighting alongside our patients, and to never stop searching for the next clue that can help understand ALS better,” said Dr. Pasinelli.

The research underway in Dr. Pasinelli’s laboratory has benefitted greatly from the generosity of two of Jefferson’s longtime benefactors, Vickie and Jack Farber. Both the Frances and Joseph Weinberg Unit for ALS Research and the Frances and Joseph Weinberg Professorship in Neuroscience were established by gifts from the Farber family.

Dr. Pasinelli thanked the Farbers and the President of the ALS Association Greater Philadelphia Chapter, Ellyn C. Phillips for their support of her work.

“Vickie, Jack and Ellyn, with your support that has allowed the ALS Center to grow into one true clinical research integrated Center, but more importantly, that has allowed the neurosciences to come together in the Vickie and Jack Farber Institute, I believe we’ll be able to work more efficiently and faster. I want to thank you for your vision, for sharing our beliefs and for enabling a researcher like me along the way.”

The mission of the Weinberg Center is to fight ALS using multiple approaches, starting from the basic understanding of how ALS develops to finding effective therapies, and maybe even a cure for this complicated disease.

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