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New endowed chair bridges genetics and pharmacology

Alan Leslie, M.D., a 1931 graduate of DMS, and his wife, Fannie, recently made a commitment to fund a new endowed chair—in a new cross-disciplinary field—at Dartmouth Medical School. The Fannie and Alan Leslie Professorship in Medicine will be devoted to the study of genetics, with particular emphasis on pharmacogenetics.

The gift is part of a larger commitment, totaling $16 million, that the Leslies made to Dartmouth College last fall; it was one of the largest individual gifts in Dartmouth's history. Alan Leslie, also a 1930 graduate of the College, practiced internal medicine for many years, first in New York City and then in Los Angeles. And Fannie Leslie, who holds a bachelor's degree from Rice and a master's from Tulane, also has Dartmouth roots; her grandfather, William Fellows Swain, was an 1850 graduate of the College.

"The DNA sequence of the human genome is now freely accessible to all," notes DMS Dean John Baldwin, M.D. "The Leslie Chair will greatly accelerate our ability to create new knowledge based on our work here in genetics and pharmacology. We stand on the threshold of transforming medicine with what we learn, and this tremendously important gift from Fannie and Alan Leslie helps accelerate our ability to make great contributions to science in return."

Actually, the Leslies' original plan was a bit different. "We had in mind a professorship in pharmacology," says Alan Leslie, explaining that he was an instructor in pharmacology at Columbia early in his career. However, he adds, "during talks last spring, [Dartmouth College] President [James] Wright mentioned genetics as an endowment possibility, and we came up with the integrative idea of combining genetics with pharmacology."

Timely: It was a timely idea indeed. Pharmacogenetics involves the study of genetically determined responses to drugs and has become an essential part of current research in genetics.

Genetic differences can have serious clinical consequences, notes Jay Dunlap, Ph.D., chair of genetics at DMS. Knowing how particular drugs react to certain genetic constructions can help to reduce or eliminate adverse effects that may lead to serious illness or death. Dunlap explains that scientists know from basic research in genetics and pharmacology that this sort of "personalized medicine" will be possible with more research.

"The Leslie Professorship re- flects a gratifying degree of foresight by the Leslies," says Dunlap, "by promoting work in some of the most topical areas of current research. Their investment will help foster the creation of new knowledge from basic research that will guide the development of truly 'personalized medicine'—treatments and therapies that are individualized to one's own genetic makeup."

-Sandy Adams

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