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University of South Florida

Three USF Health MCOM leading scientists elected as AAAS 2020 Fellows

Three USF Health Morsani College of Medicine faculty members who have led their disciplines in research, innovation and scholarship, have been named new Fellows of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), one of higher education’s most prestigious honors bestowed by peers.

Barry Bercu, MD; Gloria Cruz Ferreira, PhD; and Jeffrey Krischer, PhD, were among eight University of South Florida professors elected as AAAS 2020 Fellows – bringing USF’s total number of Fellows to 81.

“Faculty are the intellectual lifeblood of our world-class research university, and I’m proud to congratulate USF’s exceptionally talented scholars selected for the 2020 class of AAAS Fellows,” said USF President Steve Currall, who was named a AAAS Fellow in 2013. “This lifetime distinction from AAAS is especially meaningful because it reflects recognition by peers of our faculty’s outstanding contributions to the fields of science and technology.”

The bios of the new AAAS fellows from the USF Health Morsani College of Medicine follow:

BARRY BERCU, MD, MOLECULAR PHARMACOLOGY & PHYSIOLOGY 

Citation: For distinguished contributions and foundational research advancing the field of pediatric endocrinology and for seminal characterizations of growth hormone neurosecretory dysfunction and the “Bercu Patient.”

Barry B. Bercu, MD, is a Professor Emeritus of Pediatrics and a Professor of Molecular Pharmacology and Physiology. As a physician-scientist, he was the first to clinically describe and coin the term growth hormone neurosecretory dysfunction (GHND). He characterized a deficiency in the neuroregulatory control of growth hormone secretion in the central nervous system of humans and animals that had been irradiated. He was the first to demonstrate that chemical substances outside the hypothalamus can potentially regulate pituitary melanocyte-stimulating hormone — a breakthrough discovery in neuroendocrinology. Dr. Bercu is also well known for his research and description of what has since become known in scientific literature as “the Bercu Patient.” While at the National Institutes of Health, Dr. Bercu also was part of the landmark group of academic pediatric endocrinologists who innovated the original clinical biosynthetic human growth hormone protocol for Genentech, the company that developed the first of biosynthetic recombinant DNA products. The FDA rapidly approved the Genentech recombinant biosynthetic as a safe alternative to the extremely limited supply from natural tissue. He is also internationally recognized for founding, organizing and leading numerous national and international conferences to enable collaboration across disciplines, and across academia, industry, and governments, to address some of society’s pressing medical issues. In addition, Dr. Bercu was a driving force in the creation and ultimate construction of the Center for Advanced Medical Learning and Simulation (CAMLS) in downtown Tampa. He earned his MD from the University of Maryland and completed his residency and combined fellowships at MGH/Harvard Medical School and Tufts Medical Center.

GLORIA CRUZ FERREIRA, PhD, MOLECULAR MEDICINE

Citation: For distinguished contributions to the field of iron-heme metabolism, particularly using enzymology and spectroscopy to study heme synthesis and the molecular basis of heme-related disorders.

Gloria Cruz Ferreira, Ph.D., is a Professor in the Department of Molecular Medicine and holds affiliate faculty positions in the Department of Chemistry, College of Arts and Sciences; and a courtesy faculty appointment in the Department of Global Health, College of Public Health. Dr. Ferreira is well known for her breakthroughs on heme biosynthesis and iron and heme metabolism — important biological processes that enable oxygen transport in the blood, maintenance of critical iron reservoirs, support of cellular respiration and the function of certain enzymes and transporters. Dysfunctional heme biosynthesis can lead to a group of rare disorders called porphyrias, encompassing neurological, mental and photosensitivity symptoms. Dr. Ferreira was the first to develop an expression system for the first enzyme of this pathway: 5-aminolevulinate synthase (ALAS), which permitted her and her research group to characterize the reaction mechanism, architecture and folding of the enzyme, opening the field to new opportunities for investigation. Dr. Ferreira is also credited with creating biophysical and biochemical approaches to investigate at a molecular level, the terminal enzyme of the heme biosynthetic pathway, ferrochelatase. Her investigations characterizing the molecular basis of heme-related disorders, such as porphyrias, led her to develop several potential therapies for which she holds two patents. She was elected the 2002 chair of the prestigious Gordon Research Conference; and received the National Science Foundation Young Investigator Award and American Cancer Society Junior Faculty Award among others. She earned her Licenciatura (equivalent of B.S. plus M.S. degrees) from the University of Aveiro, Portugal, and her doctorate from the University of Georgia. She was a Damon Runyon-Walter Winchell Postdoctoral Fellow at The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.

JEFFREY KRISCHER, PhD, PEDIATRICS AND INTERNAL MEDICINE

Citation: For distinguished contributions in diabetes research, particularly for advancing understanding of mechanisms of autoimmunity and disease progression and designing, conducting, analyzing multicenter clinical trials worldwide.

Jeffrey P. Krischer, PhD, is a Distinguished University Health Professor; USF Health Endowed Professor in Diabetes; Director of the USF Diabetes Center; Professor and Vice Chair of Research in the Department of Internal Medicine; and Professor and Head of the Division of Epidemiology and Biostatistics in the Department of Pediatrics. Dr. Krischer is an internationally renowned epidemiologist and leads the largest epidemiological study and data network of Type 1 Diabetes (T1D) etiology and pathogenesis funded by the National Institutes of Health. His research has improved our understanding of the genotype-phenotype relationships that govern the initiation of diabetes-related autoimmunity and progression to clinical diabetes. For example, his work to identify the predictive role of islet cell autoantibodies established for the first time associated metabolic markers that identify individuals with an increased risk of developing T1D. He is recognized as the first to clinically describe two different forms of T1D. He was also the first to describe the stages of T1D, which has led to a new generation of clinical trials designed to slow disease progression as well as identify possible preventions. Dr. Krischer’s state-of-the-art Health Informatics Institute, based at the USF Health Morsani College of Medicine, is an internationally recognized repository for substantial clinical data sets, coordinating large trials such as the Rare and Atypical Diabetes Network, Vasculitis Clinical Research Consortium, the Rare Lung Disease Clinical Research Consortium, and Type 1 Diabetes TrialNet. The Institute provides integrative analysis of Big Data comprised of genomics, metabolomics, proteomics, and the microbiome. They also develop technologies that advance translational medicine, including a smart phone app that allows for remote monitoring of pulmonary lung function, and an app that remotely measures ambulatory capacity. Dr. Krischer earned his B.S. from the Illinois Institute of Technology, and his Master’s degree and PhD from Harvard University. He received an MD honoris causa from Lund University, Sweden.

These USF Health MCOM faulty members are among 489 scholars who will be recognized at a virtual induction ceremony for new AAAS Fellows on Feb. 13, 2021, following the association’s annual meeting.

For a full list of all of USF’s newly elected AAAS Fellows, click here.