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A million-dollar fund will support junior researchers

Medicine@Yale, 2017 - Nov Dec


Donor, an alumnus, sees vast potential in the work of early-career neuroscientists

With a goal of spurring new discoveries in neuroscience by bright young investigators, and supporting the work of the next generation of leaders in the field, Reynold Spector, M.D. ’66, and his wife Michiko Spector have established a $1 million fund to foster the education and training of junior faculty members.

The Reynold and Michiko Spector Fund for Neuroscience celebrates—and looks to help through philanthropy—Yale’s long history of neuroscience discovery, which has contributed a great deal to the understanding of brain anatomy, physiology, and chemistry. “Yale is a strong place for neuroscience research,” says Reynold Spector. “The university is committed to it, and I am hopeful that bright young scientists will come up with ideas that are new and valuable.”

“The Spectors’ gifts are timely, coming at a moment when young investigators are increasingly valued as indispensable partners for the medical school’s senior faculty,” says Robert J. Alpern, M.D., dean and Ensign Professor of Medicine. “We realize more than ever how talented young scientists bring creative and innovative approaches to the school’s research programs.”

As a physician and researcher, Spector has had a strong interest in the neurosciences since his Yale days. He completed his medical school thesis with the late professor and chief of neuropathology Elias Manuelidis, M.D., a world-renowned expert in Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, a degenerative disease of the nervous system. Spector has also closely followed the work of Manuelidis’ wife, Laura Manuelidis, M.D., professor of surgery (neuropathology).

“Elias Manuelidis thought a little bit differently than many other neuroscientists. He taught me an offbeat approach to things, and that turned out to be exceedingly useful, because I heard my own drummer,” says Spector. “We need strong, smart, young people who hear a different drummer to undertake innovative neuroscience research so we can make real progress against many currently untreatable brain diseases.”

“I know my husband’s interest in neuroscience research started at Yale,” says Michiko Spector. “Neuroscience is still an area with many unknowns. We need young, innovative blood to figure out our brain.”

The endowed fund will provide research and teaching support in perpetuity to junior faculty working in the field. This year, Ellen J. Hoffman, M.D., Ph.D., assistant professor in the Yale Child Study Center, has been selected to receive research support from the fund. “As a junior faculty member, I believe the Spector Fund Award will greatly contribute to the development of my research program. The award will give me the opportunity to expand my research in new directions with the aim of advancing our understanding of the neurobiology of autism.”

Reynold Spector, now retired, focused his research on understanding the blood-brain and blood-cerebrospinal fluid barriers. He also had a long career in clinical pharmacology, culminating in a position at Merck, where he oversaw the development of breakthrough medications including Zocor®, Singulair®, Fosamax®, and Cozaar®; and vaccines for human papillomavirus and shingles. Prior to his tenure at Merck, where he served as head of development, Spector conducted neuroscience research at Harvard for seven years, and then at the University of Iowa, where he was director of the university’s Clinical Research Center as well.

The Spectors’ daughter, June T. Spector, M.D., M.P.H., is also a graduate of Yale School of Medicine, Class of 2005. She now is an associate professor of medicine (general internal medicine), and of environmental and occupational health sciences, at the University of Washington. The Spectors view their contribution to Yale as a crucial investment in an institution that has done much for them, and for all of its students. “Both June and I benefitted greatly from Yale,” Reynold Spector says, “so we decided to give back.”

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