First In The World: Revolutions in Healthcare at UVA

Date & Time

June 3, 2017 @ 2:00 pm - 3:15 pm


Newcomb Theater



UVA School of Medicine researchers are unlocking the secrets of the brain to transform how we deliver lifesaving care to patients. Jonathan Kipnis’s breakthrough discovery of the immune system’s relationship with the brain will impact the treatment of neurological diseases such as autism, Alzheimer’s, and multiple sclerosis. Jeff Elias’s innovative use of focused ultrasound recently received FDA approval for treating essential tremors and has the potential to dramatically improve the lives of patients with Parkinson’s and cancer. This panel discussion will provide an insider’s look into these nationally publicized, groundbreaking discoveries.


Peggy Shupnik (moderator)

Gerald D. Aurbach Professor of Endocrinology, Senior Associate Dean of Research

Margaret A. Shupnik received her PhD in Biochemistry from the University of Wisconsin and performed post-doctoral training at the Harvard School of Public Health. Her research interests center on hypothalamic and steroid hormone regulation of transcription, as well as steroid contributions to breast and endometrial cancers.   She was on faculty at Harvard Medical School, with appointments at Massachusetts General Hospital, Brigham and Women’s Hospital, and the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, prior to her recruitment to the University of Virginia. She has served in leadership positions nationally in the Endocrine Society, Federation for the Study of Experimental Biology, and the International Society of Endocrinology.  She is currently the Gerald D. Aurbach Professor of Endocrinology, and the Senior Associate Dean for Research for the School of Medicine.  In this role, she oversees basic, clinical and translational research and joint oversight for the graduate student and MSTP Programs, new buildings and facilities for research, leads strategic planning and implementation for research and participates in faculty recruitment and retention.

Dr. Jeffrey Elias

Professor, School of Medicine, Neurological Surgery and Neurology

William Jeffrey Elias was born in Durham, North Carolina. He grew up in Roanoke as the son of a neurologist. He attended Wake Forest University and pursued a degree in chemistry. He attended UVA for medical school and neurosurgical training where  he completed intramural fellowships in neuropathology and spinal surgery before spending a year in Plymouth, England. Following residency, he pursued additional training in stereotactic and functional neurosurgery at the Oregon Health Sciences University. In 2002, Dr. Elias returned to UVA where he is currently the director of stereotactic and functional neurosurgery with a large multidisciplinary program in the surgical treatment of movement disorders, epilepsy and spasticity. He currently sits on the medical advisory board of the International Essential Tremor Foundation (IETF). Dr. Elias is pursuing research projects that match his clinical interests in movement disorders and epilepsy surgery. His clinical research involves the use of MR-guided focused ultrasound for the treatment of movement disorders such as essential tremor and Parkinson’s disease.  In the laboratory, he is studying the use of focused ultrasound to modulate the central nervous system and to map deep brain targets. Dr. Elias serves on the editorial board of the Journal of Neurosurgery.

Jonathan Kipnis

Harrison Distinguished Teaching Professor and Chair, School of Medicine, Neuroscience; Director, Center for Brain Immunology and Glia (BIG)

Dr. Jonathan (Jony) Kipnis’s research group focuses on the complex interactions between the immune system and the central nervous system (CNS). The goal is to elucidate the cellular and molecular mechanisms underlying the beneficial effects of immune system in brain function in neurodegenerative, neurodevelopmental, and mental disorders as well as in healthy aging.

Dr. Kipnis’s research team showed that the brain function is dependent, in part, on the function and integrity of the immune system. The fascination with immunity and its role in healthy and diseased brain is what brought the team to a breakthrough discovery of lymphatic vessels that drain the CNS into the peripheral lymph nodes and thus serve as a physical connection between the brain and the immune system. The implications of this work are broad and range from Autism to Alzheimer’s disease through neuroinflammatory conditions, such as Multiple Sclerosis. Actually, recently the lab has made another major discovery, demonstrating the critical role of the immune system in social behavior, implicated in autism spectrum disorder. Today we will hear on the role of CNS-lymphatic vessels in brain aging and Alzheimer’s disease and how targeting these vessels may rejuvenate the brain.

Jony Kipnis graduated from the Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel, where he was a Sir Charles Clore scholar and a recipient of distinguished prize for scientific achievements awarded by the Israeli Parliament, The Knesset.

Jony joined UVA faculty in 2007 as an assistant professor and has rapidly risen through the ranks. He is now a Harrison Distinguished Professor and Chair of the Neuroscience Department. He was awarded the Robert Ader Award by the PsychoNeuroImmunology Research Society and the Jordi Folch-Pi award by the American Society for Neurochemistry. In 2015, Jony became a Gutenberg Research College Fellow at the Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz Medical Center, Germany.