The UC San Diego Clinical and Translational Research Institute (CTRI) has announced the Daniel T. O’Connor Memorial Award, which will add funding to support the top 2015 CTRI project recipient, Julie Bykowski, MD. The award was established by Dr. O’Connor’s widow, Kellie Evans-O’Connor. Read the story in the UC San Diego Clinical and Translational News & Announcements
Announcement from Wolfgang H. Dillmann, MD, Helen M. Ranney Distinguished Professor and Chair of the Department of Medicine
It is with great sadness that we announce the passing of Daniel T. O’Connor, MD, a longstanding and beloved member of the faculty of the UCSD School of Medicine. He passed away peacefully at his home on August 6, 2014.
Dr. O’Connor graduated from the UC Davis School of Medicine in 1974 and completed both residency and fellowship at UCSD. He joined the faculty in the Division of Nephrology-Hypertension in 1979, after a productive fellowship with Richard Stone, MD, that focused on the sympathetic nervous system in hypertension. Dr. O’Connor developed an early interest in the proteins that package neurotransmitters, particularly Chromogranin A. His work on this molecule led to numerous awards including election to the American Society for Clinical Investigation (ASCI), the Harry Goldblatt Award for cardiovascular Research, a UC Davis distinguished alumnus award, a UCSD Faculty Distinguished Lecturer Award, an Established Investigator of the American Heart Association award and presidency of the American Society for Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics (ASPET)/ Federation of Societies for Experimental Biology (FASEB). His work with Chromogranin A led directly to a blood test for endocrine tumors that is still in use, particularly to diagnose pheochromocytoma. He discovered that catestatin, a proteolytic product of Chromogranin A, is an important regulator of blood pressure. Catestatin and congeners are currently in development for clinical use. Dr. O’Connor’s laboratory was funded by large research grants from the National Institutes of Health, including SCOR in Hypertension and Program Project Grants on the role of adrenergic activity in the regulation of blood pressure. He published well over 350 original articles in first-rate peer-reviewed journals. Dr. O’Connor’s research spanned basic biochemistry through clinical trials, giving his many trainees invaluable skills across the full spectrum of medical investigation. The fellows and junior faculty that Dr. O’Connor trained have succeeded in academic medicine, pharmacology, biotechnology, and nephrology. His approach to research was notable for openness, sharing and collaboration with other labs, and this infectious attitude is carried on by his trainees.
Not only was Dr. O’Connor a highly productive researcher at UCSD and internationally, but also a highly involved faculty citizen at UCSD. He was an excellent teacher involved in both basic science teaching of MDs and PhDs, and a popular and learned educator in the clinical arena. He was widely recognized as the consummate teacher and always had time to provide needed information to fellows and junior faculty members.
UCSD has grown justifiably proud of Dr. O’Connor’s achievements in clinical, translational and basic research on a national and international scale, particularly in the areas of adrenergic contributions to blood pressure regulation and the complex role of the genetics of hypertension. All who had the privilege of working with Dan O’Connor will greatly miss his infectious attitude that academic medicine and research are more fun than work.
A team of University of California, San Diego researchers has designed new compounds that mimic those naturally used by the body to regulate blood pressure. The most promising of them may literally be the key to controlling hypertension, switching off the signaling pathways that lead to the deadly condition. … Read the full story from the UCSD Newsroom
Senior author of the study report is Daniel T. O’Connor, MD, professor of pharmacology and professor of medicine in the Division of Nephrology-Hypertension. O’Connor directs the UC San Diego Hypertension Research Program and Hypertension Research Group.
Other Department of Medicine coauthors are Sushil K. Mahata, PhD, professor of medicine and pharmacology; and project scientist Nilima Biswas, PhD. Mahata is also a Veterans Affairs San Diego Healthcare System investigator.
Citation for the study report: Igor F. Tsigelny, Valentina L. Kouznetsova, Nilima Biswas, Sushil K. Mahata, Daniel T. O’Connor, Development of a pharmacophore model for the catecholamine release-inhibitory peptide catestatin: Virtual screening and functional testing identify novel small molecule therapeutics of hypertension, Bioorganic & Medicinal Chemistry, Available online 17 July 2013, ISSN 0968-0896, http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.bmc.2013.07.008. | Full text (UCSD only)
In “The Fat You Can’t See,” Loomba describes the rising incidence of fatty liver disease and points to society’s general increase in dietary sugar intake as a major cause. He emphasizes the importance of identifying individuals who are at highest risk for developing the disease and he predicts there will be a dramatic increase in our understanding of the disease in the next five years.
Rohit Loomba, MD, MHSc, is assistant professor of clinical medicine in the Division of Gastroenterology. He also holds an appointment in the Division of Epidemiology in the Department of Family and Preventive Medicine.
Loomba conducts his clinical practice in UC San Diego Health System’s liver disease clinics. In his research laboratory, he conducts a variety of studies of nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD), including a number of clinical trials.
With a four-year mentored patient-oriented research career development grant from the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK), Loomba is investigating the genetic epidemiology of NAFLD in a twin-pair study. In that work, his mentors are UCSD researchers Daniel T. O’Connor, MD, professor of medicine and pharmacology; Elizabeth Barrett-Connor, MD, distinguished professor and chief of the Division of Epidemiology in the Department of Family and Preventive Medicine; and David Brenner, MD, Vice Chancellor for Health Sciences and Dean of the School of Medicine.
Loomba serves as the UCSD site principal investigator for the Nonalcoholic Steatohepatitis Clinical Research Network (NASH-CRN) studies in adult patients with NAFLD. NASH-CRN, an NIDDK-sponsored research consortium funded via a UO1 research program-cooperative agreement mechanism, aims to improve understanding of the natural history, pathophysiology and management of NAFLD.
In addition, he is the founding director and principal investigator of the San Diego Integrated NAFLD Research Consortium (SINC), which includes four centers: UCSD, Kaiser Permanente Health System, Sharp Health System, and Balboa Naval Medical Center. SINC is a collaborative network that allows community-based patients to participate in NAFLD studies conducted at UCSD.
Loomba has established a major NAFLD research program at UCSD with recently published investigator-initiated treatment studies in NASH (Le et al., Hepatology September 2012) and several in progress.
In various NAFLD translational research studies currently ongoing at UCSD, Loomba collaborates with Drs. Jerrold Olefsky, David Brenner, Claude Sirlin, Bernd Schnabl, Lars Eckmann, Edward Dennis, Ariel Feldstein and Ekihiro Seki.
He also directs the UCSD fellowship training program in liver epidemiology and patient-oriented outcomes research.