Dr. Jan Vijg Appointed Professor and Chair of Genetics at Einstein

July 14, 2008 — (BRONX, NY) — Jan Vijg, Ph.D., has been named professor and chair of genetics at Albert Einstein College of Medicine of Yeshiva University. The appointment was announced by Allen M. Spiegel, M.D., The Marilyn and Stanley M. Katz Dean of the medical school. In conjunction with his appointment, Dr. Vijg also has been named the Lola and Saul Kramer Chair in Molecular Genetics.

dr. jan vijgDr. Vijg comes to Einstein from the Buck Institute for Age Research, in Novato, California, where his studies focused on genome instability and the mechanisms through which this may cause human disease and aging. His appointment at Einstein ends an international search, during which Dr. Jack Lenz served as interim chair of the department.

"We're very excited to welcome Jan to Einstein, where his investigations of DNA damage and its impact on longevity will augment the work for which investigators in our Institute for Aging Research are widely renowned," said Dr. Spiegel. "With his reputation for collaboration and scientific imagination — both hallmarks of research at Einstein — Jan will be a key leader and motivator in implementing our strategic goals for genetic research."

Among his first acts as chair, Dr. Vijg has changed the department's name from "Molecular Genetics" to "Genetics," reflecting its original name when Einstein established the first Department of Genetics at any medical school in 1963. "Einstein has a reputation for very good basic research in genetics. My goal will be to generate a Department of Genetics that will also be a driver for translational research, using the latest technology to help patients by learning what disease is about and how to best treat it," said Dr. Vijg. "We will seek more efficient ways to serve patients, such as tailoring treatments specific to their individual genetic make-up, and use a variety of genetically engineered animal models to learn more about human diseases and identify new interventions."

A native of The Netherlands, Dr. Vijg has gained distinction for his use of genetically engineered mice in his investigation of the impact of DNA damage on human disease and aging. One of his present projects, supported by the Ellison Medical Foundation, involves developing a mouse model for investigating a specific type of DNA damage in aging, called double-stranded breaks because both of the DNA "threads" are broken. This new model will allow scientists to measure the impact of this type of DNA damage on age-related ailments and functional decline.

In 1989, Dr. Vijg developed the MutaMouseTM, the first transgenic animal engineered to detect gene mutations in a living organism. This allowed scientists to monitor the effects of toxic agents on mouse DNA in any of its tissues or organs. Since then, he has developed new versions of this mouse model, which aid researchers in monitoring ongoing changes in DNA in different tissues or during various developmental stages of the mouse lifespan. He holds eight patents in research processes and methodologies, and has authored more than 200 scientific publications.

Dr. Vijg received his bachelor's, master's and doctoral degrees from the State University of Leiden, in The Netherlands. He currently resides in Manhattan.

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