Lewis P. Rowland Memorial Lecture

The Lewis P. Rowland Memorial Lecture was established in 2019 in honor of the memory and accomplishments of Dr. Lewis Rowland, who passed away on March 16, 2017 at the age of 91.

Dr. Lewis P Rowland and colleagues looking at the books and talking

Lewis P. “Bud” Rowland was one of the most influential neurologists of his time. He received his BS and MD degrees from Yale University. As a medical student, Bud joined The Association of Interns and Medical Students (AIMS), which advocated universal health insurance, equal care for rich and poor, and increased minority medical school enrollment. After a medical internship at Yale-New Haven Hospital, he accepted a position as assistant resident in neurology with H. Houston Merritt at the Neurological Institute of New York. He was also accepted as one of the first group of clinical associates appointed to the newly created National Institute of Neurological Diseases and Blindness, the precursor to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. It was during his time at the NIH that Bud developed his lifelong interest in the genetics of neurological diseases. In 1967, he left Columbia to become Chairman of Neurology at the University of Pennsylvania, but quickly returned in 1973 to become the Chairman of Neurology at Columbia, a position he held for 25 years.

Under his leadership, Columbia’s Department of Neurology again became one of the largest and best academic departments in the country, as it had been under Dr. Merritt. Bud’s own clinical interests focused on neuromuscular diseases and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). With Dr. Salvatore DiMauro, Bud established the H. Houston Merritt Clinical Research Center for Muscular Dystrophy and Related Diseases, which pioneered research in a number of neuromuscular diseases including mitochondrial disorders and spinal muscular atrophy. Bud also founded and co-directed the Eleanor and Lou Gehrig MDA/ALS Center.

Bud was a prolific author, writing or coauthoring 483 manuscripts and 26 books. After Merritt’s death he authored and then edited subsequent editions of Merritt’s Neurology, now in its 13th edition. He was Editor-in-Chief of Neurology (1976-1986) and founding Editor-in-Chief of Neurology Today (2000-2010). Bud served as President of both the American Academy of Neurology(1989-90) and the American Neurological Association (1980-81) as well as the Association of University Professors of Neurology (1978-79). He also served as President (1969-70) and Chairman of the Board (1992-1998) of the Association for Research in Nervous and Mental Diseases and President and Chairman of the Board of the Parkinson’s Disease Foundation (1979-2013).

Those of us who had the honor to train with him, work for him or simply attend his teaching rounds can attest to his kindness with patients and his remarkable depth of knowledge of neurological diseases. He was a tireless mentor, beloved and sorely missed by many friends, colleagues and former students around the world.

2021 Lewis P. Rowland Memorial Lecture

Jerry R. Mendell, MD
Professor of Pediatrics and Neurology
Curran-Peters Chair of Pediatric Research, Abigail Wexner Research Institute

Dr. Jerry R Mendell photo

Jerry R Mendell graduated from the University of Texas, attended UT Southwestern Medical School, and did Neurology Residency at Columbia University’s New York Neurological Institute. His post-doctoral fellowship at the NIH began his career in Neuromuscular diseaseand that continued at Ohio State University and Children’s Hospital in Columbus. He currently holds the Curran-Peters Chair of Pediatric Research. He has published >395 articles with a focus on neuromuscular disease and authored books on Skeletal Muscle Disease, Peripheral Nerve Disorders, and Gene Therapy.

Dr. Mendell's early work in Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy described a vascular pathway responsible for muscle damage. He also described efficacy of corticosteroids in DMD in a 1989 landmark study –which is now standard of care. His more recent work has moved toward molecular-based strategies. In 1999 Dr. Mendell performed the first in-human clinical trial using AAV for gene transfer to skeletal muscle. In March 2007, Dr. Mendell’s gene therapy in limb-girdle muscular dystrophy type 2D,demonstrated sustained gene expression for more than 6 months, an important milestone for the field. In a similar gene therapy approach for DMD, he demonstrated that expressing the transgene into deleted domain resulted in rejection of the gene product because of transgene immunity.

While working on treatment strategies, the Mendell Lab developed the two-tier system for detection of DMD in the newborn using the dried blood for both CK and DNA testing. This seminal study established the international incidence of DMD at birth at 1:5000. Clinical Trials led by Dr. Mendell in exon skipping were noteworthy as the first therapeutic agent to show increased dystrophin expression following long-term exon skipping outcomes demonstrating slowing of disease progression. Eteplirsen (Exondys51) is approved by the FDA for commercial use.

The culmination of these efforts resulted the first systemically delivered gene therapy showing safety and efficacy in Spinal Muscular Atrophy. This was a major milestone saving the lives of infants with gene delivery by intravenous administration. This work received Science Magazine 2017 Breakthrough of the Year Award and The Clinical Research Forum Distinguished Clinical Research Award (2018). SMA gene therapy has now been approved by the FDA for clinical therapy a sOnasemnogene Abeparvovec. Based on SMA gene therapy, newborn screening is now established in 31 states throughout the country.

Currently Dr. Mendell is actively engaged in systemic delivery of micro-dystrophin in a DMD gene therapy and is the first to demonstrate efficacy in this wanting disorder recently published in JAMA Neurology (June 15,2020). The Center for Gene Therapy at Nationwide Childrens is playing a leading role in establishing safety and efficacy in gene delivery childhood diseases. Clinical trials have now added favorable gene expression and functional improvement in limb-girdle muscular dystrophies.