Title is one of the university’s highest honors for its faculty

Two professors from the University of Colorado Denver’s School of Medicine have been nominated for this year’s “Distinguished Professor” title, one of the university’s highest accolades. Those designated Distinguished Professors have demonstrated outstanding performance in classroom teaching, research and service to the university and its affiliate institutions.

Citing recommendations from colleagues and deans, a committee consisting of the university’s Distinguished Professors recommended William P. Arend, MD, and John Cambier, PhD, of the University of Colorado Denver, as candidates this year. Donald Klingner, PhD, of the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs, was also nominated. University of Colorado President Bruce D. Benson will send their names on to the CU Board of Regents for confirmation at the November regents meeting.

“Our university is fortunate to have faculty members who are not only world-class researchers, but dedicated teachers and committed, caring members of the CU family,” Benson said as he announced the nominees. “Who wouldn’t be impressed with the work they have done, continue to do, and—if we have any say in the matter—will continue to do for years to come at CU.”

Arend’s career spans 40 years of clinical work, teaching, service to the university and his profession, as well as biomedical research funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and several foundations. He is internationally known for his discovery of the IL-1 receptor antagonist protein, or IL-1Ra, which was an important discovery for treating patients with autoimmune and inflammatory diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis. He is also well known in the medical field for finding a way to combat damage caused by the “fever molecule,” which causes fever without infection.

The University of Colorado holds the patent on IL-1Ra, which has been licensed exclusively to therapeutics developer Amgen. The recombinant form of IL-1Ra has been marketed since 2001 as the commercial drug Kineret, with worldwide sales exceeding $600 million to date. At Arend’s request, the drug’s royalties to his laboratory and the School of Medicine’s department of medicine were committed to funding the endowed chair in rheumatology that bears his name.

“Dr. Arend has had an extraordinary career and is very deserving of this honor,” Richard D. Krugman, MD, vice chancellor for health affairs and dean of the School of Medicine at CU Denver, wrote in a nomination letter.

Cambier’s nomination centers around his work over the past 20 years on B cell immunology. B cells create antibodies and are linked to vaccines developed for humans and domestic animals. However, while the cells are essential to good health, they can cause illness when they go awry, making antibodies that attack their own hosts.

In 1988, Cambier was one of the first to discover the proteins that signal the inside of a cell to inform it that it has engaged an antigen on the outside of a cell. The discovery of these signaling proteins have enabled immunologists to understand the biology behind B cells detecting antigens, or substances that cause the creation of antibodies and a subsequent immune response in the body.

“It is very important that we understand the behavior of B cells, thus allowing us to manipulate them to improve the efficacy of vaccines and decrease the severity of autoimmune diseases,” said Philippa Marrack, PhD, the National Jewish Health researcher who nominated Cambier for the honor. “Dr. Cambier’s work has substantially contributed to our ability to do both these things.” He has been the only appointed chair to the School of Medicine’s immunology department, and has guided the department since its inception “with wisdom and care,” Marrack said.

Both Arend and Cambier teach medical students at the School of Medicine and are credited with profound wisdom and also known by their colleagues for their personal mentoring with many doctoral students and postdoctoral fellows. Their deep commitment to education and passion for research are just a few of the accolades that these two share, which led to their nominations.

Faculty at the University of Colorado Denver’s School of Medicine work to advance science and improve care. These faculty members include physicians, educators and scientists at University of Colorado Hospital, The Children’s Hospital, Denver Health, National Jewish Health, and the Denver Veterans Affairs Medical Center. Degrees offered by the CU Denver School of Medicine include doctor of medicine, doctor of physical therapy, and masters of physician assistant studies. The School is located on the University of Colorado’s Anschutz Medical Campus, one of four campuses in the University of Colorado system. For additional news and information, please visit the CU Denver newsroom online.

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