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Three Fox Chase Cancer Center Virologists Elected Fellows of the American Academy of Microbiology

PHILADELPHIA (May 2, 2000) -- New fellows elected by the American Academy of Microbiology include three Fox Chase Cancer Center virologists: Dr. William S. Mason of Williamstown, N.J., Dr. Christoph Seeger of Elkins Park, Pa., and Dr. John M. Taylor of Cheltenham, Pa. Each is a senior member of the division of basic science at Fox Chase (the equivalent of a full professor at a university).

Based in Washington, D.C., the Academy is a leadership group within the American Society for Microbiology, the world's oldest and largest life-science organization. The Academy honors microbiologists for distinguished achievements in the field and for demonstrating scientific excellence, originality and leadership.

All three Fox Chase researchers elected as fellows have made significant contributions to the field of hepatitis B virology. The World Health Organization estimates that more than 350 million adults are chronically infected with hepatitis B, largely as a result of infection during infancy. Approximately 1 million people die every year of hepatitis B-related liver cancer or cirrhosis.

William S. Mason, Ph.D.

According to the Hepatitis B Foundation, which honored Mason with its Distinguished Scientist Award in 1999, Mason has had a profound impact on hepatitis research through his studies of how the hepatitis B virus reproduces itself. This information is fundamental to understanding how the virus causes primary liver cancer and cirrhosis.

During the 1980s, Mason, Dr. Jesse W. Summers (then scientific director at Fox Chase) and colleagues were the first to develop laboratory models for studying hepatitis virus reproduction. Working with these models, they showed that the hepatitis B virus replicates by reverse transcription. This is the same method used by the human immunodeficiency virus, which causes AIDS.

Mason's Fox Chase laboratory now concentrates on how liver cells interact with the hepatitis B virus during chronic infection. His research is designed to understand why some individuals maintain a chronic infection and to devise treatments that will eliminate the virus. In addition, he is studying the sequence of changes in the liver that lead to primary liver cancer, which frequently affects people with chronic hepatitis B infection.

Born in Paterson, N.J., Mason received his bachelor's degree in mathematics from Stevens Institute of Technology in Hoboken, N.J., in 1965 and his Ph.D. in biophysics from the University of Chicago in 1971. Mason came to Fox Chase as a research associate in 1973 after completing a postdoctoral fellowship in microbiology at the University of Southern California School of Medicine in Los Angeles. He was promoted to tenured member of the basic science division in 1983 and became a senior member in 1991.

Christoph Seeger, Ph.D.

Dr. Christoph Seeger is recognized as an international leader in virology. He has made groundbreaking contributions to understanding molecular aspects of how both human and animal hepatitis B viruses replicate and how they cause primary liver cancer as a result of chronic infection.

Seeger's research focuses on how the virus interacts with host cells to cause transient or chronic infection and, ultimately, liver disease. He discovered a laboratory technique to produce an active form of reverse transcriptase-an enzyme vital to the unusual method hepatitis viruses use to copy their genes. Seeger then devised the first in vitro system for analyzing the process of DNA replication in this virus family, which may help in developing new treatment strategies.

The American Liver Foundation's Delaware Valley Chapter honored Seeger as 1993 Researcher of the Year. The American Society for Virology invited him to deliver its State-of-the-Art Lecture at its 1997 annual meeting. He is a member of the editorial board of the Journal of Virology.

Born in Basel, Switzerland, Seeger received his master's degree in virology in 1979 and his Ph.D. in microbiology in 1982 at the University of Basel. He received a Hoffmann-LaRoche postdoctoral fellowship in 1982 and a Swiss National Science Foundation fellowship in 1983 for postdoctoral work in microbiology and immunology at the University of California at San Francisco School of Medicine from 1982 to 1986. He then served for four years as an assistant professor of virology at New York State College of Veterinary Medicine at Cornell University in Ithaca.

Seeger came to Fox Chase in 1990 as an associate member. He was promoted to member with tenure in basic science in 1993 and to senior member in 1999. He heads the Fox Chase postdoctoral committee and serves as principal investigator for the postdoctoral training grant from the National Cancer Institute. He has also set up shared resources for image scanning and DNA microarray analysis.

John M. Taylor, Ph.D.

Taylor studies an infectious agent, the human hepatitis delta virus, often found in people with chronic hepatitis B. In fact, the delta agent is an incomplete or defective virus that can only infect people when hepatitis B is also there to act as a helper virus.

The presence of delta dramatically increases the severity of liver damage in these patients. Taylor's research has focused on the structure and replication of this most unusual agent, how it interacts with its helper virus and how it can cause disease.

Born in Melbourne, Australia, Taylor earned his bachelor's and master's of science degrees at the University of Melbourne. After receiving his Ph.D. in 1968 from the University of Toronto in Ontario Canada, he took postdoctoral positions at the University of Melbourne and then at the University of California at San Francisco.

Taylor came to Fox Chase in 1974 as an associate member in basic science. He was promoted to member with tenure in 1978 and to senior member in 1987.

Fox Chase Cancer Center, one of the nation's first comprehensive cancer centers designated by the National Cancer Institute in 1974, conducts basic and clinical research; programs of prevention, detection and treatment of cancer; and community outreach. For more information about Fox Chase activities, visit the Center's web site at:

Fox Chase Cancer Center, part of the Temple University Health System, is one of the leading cancer research and treatment centers in the United States. Founded in 1904 in Philadelphia as one of the nation’s first cancer hospitals, Fox Chase was also among the first institutions to be designated a National Cancer Institute Comprehensive Cancer Center in 1974. Fox Chase researchers have won the highest awards in their fields, including two Nobel Prizes. Fox Chase physicians are also routinely recognized in national rankings, and the Center’s nursing program has received the Magnet recognition for excellence four consecutive times. Today, Fox Chase conducts a broad array of nationally competitive basic, translational, and clinical research, with special programs in cancer prevention, detection, survivorship, and community outreach.  For more information, call 1-888-FOX CHASE or (1-888-369-2427).

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