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LJ Institute dedicates research center, wall

The La Jolla Institute for Allergy & Immunology, an international leader in immunology research and San Diego’s only research institute focused solely on immune-mediated diseases, dedicated its new Elam Discovery Wall and Type 1 Diabetes Research Center at an event on Oct. 29 attended by more than 130 area residents.

The wall, a visually stunning scientific research and education tool, was dedicated in memory of William N. Elam Jr., M.D., a longtime family physician and stepfather of Rancho Santa Fe resident and institute friend Kevin Keller.

During the dedication, guests got an up-close view of beta cell destruction via high-resolution images on the new Elam Discovery Wall. The wall enables institute scientists to see cellular activity with unprecedented clarity via a large, interconnected wall of HD monitors driven by sophisticated computer software.

The wall technology was developed by the California Institute for Telecommunications and Information Technology (Calit2) at UCSD, which designed and now hosts the largest visualization wall in the world.

Led by Matthias von Herrath, M.D., recipient of the American Diabetes Association’s prestigious 2008 Outstanding Scientific Achievement Award, the center will accelerate research toward new therapies to better treat, prevent or cure Type 1 diabetes.

“Our mission is to be a premier center of immunological excellence in Type 1 diabetes research,” said von Herrath, adding that collaboration with local organizations is key to the center’s efforts to combat Type 1 diabetes.

The center has close ties with the Pediatric Diabetes Research Center of UCSD, the Sanford Children’s Health Research Center at the Burnham Institute and Rady Children’s Hospital, along with several private San Diego biotechnology companies. In addition, the La Jolla Institute works closely with the Brehm Coalition, a national scientific consortium devoted to accelerating research toward a Type 1 diabetes cure.

Type 1 diabetes, also known as juvenile diabetes, is a serious, chronic disorder that affects more than 2 million Americans and occurs when the immune system mistakenly destroys insulin-producing beta cells in the pancreas.

Patricia Ann Elam, wife of the late William Elam Jr., said the wall bearing her husband’s name reflects both his love for medicine and for invention.

“He spent more than 50 years in the study and practice of general medicine,” she said. “But he also had an engineer’s mind and came from a family of inventive types.” His brother, James O. Elam, M.D., was a world-renowned anesthesiologist and co-inventor of Cardio Pulmonary Resuscitation, CPR.

“I think my dad would be very proud to see this wall and the potential that it holds for aiding medical advancement and enhancing public awareness about the importance of basic biomedical research,” Kevin Keller said.

— Bonnie Ward, La Jolla Institute for Allergy & Immunology

LJ Institute for Allergy & Immunology

9420 Athena Circle, La Jolla

www.liai.org