Alt Named Scientific Director of CBR Institute

Frederick Alt, Ph.D., has been named scientific director of The CBR Institute for Biomedical Research (CBRI). CBRI is an independent non-profit research institution academically affiliated with Harvard Medical School and focused on immune defense and inflammation. He succeeds Fred S. Rosen, M.D., who served as scientific director as well as president of the institute from 1987 through January 2005.

As scientific director, Alt will oversee research and training activities at the CBR Institute, as well as lead investigators in the establishment of institutional research goals. He will work closely with CBRI President and CEO, John C. Baldwin, M.D., and the board of trustees to integrate those goals into the Institute’s strategic planning.

Dr. Baldwin stated that “I am delighted that Professor Alt, a world-renowned scientific leader, has accepted the post of scientific director. His key leadership will ascertain the continued prospering of the scientific excellence that characterizes our institution.”

Dr. Alt stated that he was truly excited about being selected for the position of CBRI scientific director by Harvard Medical School and the CBRI Board of Trustees. He further stated that “I look forward to working with Dr. Baldwin and with the outstanding CBRI faculty to build on Dr. Rosen’s wonderful accomplishments and to continue the evolution of the CBRI into one of the world’s premier biomedical research institutes”.

Alt is an internationally recognized leader in the fields of immunology and cancer biology. He has been a senior investigator at CBRI since 1991. He is also a Professor of genetics and pediatrics at Harvard Medical School, the Charles A. Janeway Professor of Pediatrics and Professor of Genetics at Children’s Hospital, Boston, and an Investigator of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute.

Alt is renowned for his path-breaking research into the vast intricacies of genetic repair systems and how breakdowns in those processes can lead to cancer. Alt’s interest in medical research occurred in childhood, when his mother and father died of cancer by his 11th birthday. He decided then to devote his professional career to working on the disease. He was an undergraduate at Brandeis University and went on to Stanford University in 1971 where he earned a Ph.D. with Robert Schimke. There he discovered gene amplification in mammalian cells, which is a key mechanism of anti-cancer drug resistance and tumor progression. In 1977, Alt moved to MIT where he worked with David Baltimore, winner of the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine, and elucidated many of the basic principles of the recombination events that are involved in generating the adaptive immune system.

In 1982 Alt moved to Columbia University as an Assistant Professor and rose to Professor of Biochemistry and Molecular Biophysics in 1985. At Columbia, while continuing his groundbreaking studies on the immune system, he also discovered the N-myc oncogene based on its common amplification in human neuroblastomas.

In subsequent years at the CBR Institute and Children’s Hospital Boston, Alt continued to focus on lymphocyte development, genomic instability, and cancer. Of particular note, his group played a key role in elucidating the non-homologous DNA end-joining pathway of DNA double strand break repair in mammalian cells. More recently, the Alt group has uncovered the role of other factors, including chromosomal proteins, in maintenance of genomic stability and suppression of cancer in mice. Last year, Alt was named an Ellison Medical Foundation Senior Scholar in Aging at the CBR Institute, which has allowed him to initiate new work in the field of aging.

Alt has authored about 400 papers during his career and he has received many honors for his scientific accomplishments. In 1994, he was elected to the National Academy of Sciences of the U.S.A. He has also been elected fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and a Foreign Member of the European Molecular Biology Organization. In 2004, Alt received both the Irvington Institute Scientific Leadership Award in Immunology and the prestigious Clowes Memorial Award from the American Association of Cancer Research. In 2005, he has received the Rabbi Shai Shacknai Prize from The Hebrew University and the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society de Villiers International Achievement Award.

Alt serves on numerous editorial boards and is Editor in Chief of Advances in Immunology. He also serves on many national and international advisory boards and chairs both the Board of Scientific Councilors (basic) of the National Cancer Institute and the Scientific Advisory Board of the Irvington Institute for Biomedical Research.

Alt has mentored nearly 100 students and research fellows, many of whom have become leaders in the fields of immunology, genetics, and cancer biology. In recognition of his training accomplishments, Alt received the 2003 American Association of Immunologists Excellence in Mentoring Award.