In Memoriam

Ruth Nussenzweig, MD, PhD
June 20, 1928–April 1, 2018

Dear Colleagues,

We are deeply saddened to inform you of the passing of Ruth Nussenzweig, MD, PhD, research professor of pathology, and professor emerita of microbiology and pathology, on Sunday, April 1.

For decades, Ruth was devoted to scientific research that led to the prevention, cure, or treatment of human diseases. Working for NYU Langone’s malaria research program in the 1960s, Ruth and her husband, Dr. Victor Nussenzweig, made groundbreaking discoveries, paving the way for the development of a human malaria vaccine.

Over the course of her career, Ruth was awarded many honors including the 2008 Albert B. Sabin Gold Medal by the Sabin Vaccine Institute in recognition for her many contributions in the field of immunology and commitment to life-saving medical discoveries. She was also awarded the 2015 Warren Alpert Foundation Prize, and in 2017 was awarded the Clara Southmayd Ludlow medal from the American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene.

As a world leader in the study of tropical and parasitic diseases, and mentor to countless colleagues and students, Dr. Ruth Nussenzweig has left an indelible mark on medical research. We are grateful for all she contributed to science and to our institution.

On behalf of the entire department of Pathology, our profound condolences go out to her husband, Victor and their entire family.



Vittorio Defendi, MD
February 12, 2018

Vittorio Defendi, MD, who served as chair of NYU Langone Health’s Department of Pathology for nearly three decades and director of its Cancer Center for nearly two decades, died on February 12. He was 89.

A distinguished viral oncologist, he presciently studied the mechanisms by which DNA tumor viruses transform mammalian cells—specifically, the carcinogenic properties of the human papilloma virus. A native of Italy, Dr. Defendi earned his MD from the University of Pavia (Universita degli Studi di Pavia) in 1951. He joined the faculty of NYU School of Medicine in 1974 as professor of pathology and chair of the Department of Pathology, stepping down as chair in 2002. Previously, Dr. Defendi had spent a decade as a senior member of the Wistar Institute, the nation’s first independent biomedical research institution, also serving as the Wistar Professor of Pathology at the University of Pennsylvania. At the Wistar Institute, Dr. Defendi became a protégé of Hilary Koprowski, MD, a world-renowned biomedical researcher, who directed the institute for 35 years. Dr. Defendi served as editor-in-chief of Wistar’s Journal of Cellular Physiology from 1970 to 1996.

From 1978 to 1997, Dr. Defendi served as director of NYU Langone’s Cancer Center, and in 1982 he was named the May Ellen and Gerald Jay Ritter Professor of Oncology. Upon his retirement in 2009, he was named professor emeritus of pathology. Throughout his career, Dr. Defendi championed graduate and medical education, emphasizing the crosstalk between cancer, immunology, and disease pathogenesis. In 1977, he established NYU Langone’s first NIH-funded program for pathology residents and fellows. To honor Dr. Defendi’s lifelong service to science, the Department of Pathology, and graduate education, NYU Langone established the Vittorio Defendi Fellowship in Pathobiology in 2008.

Dr. Defendi is survived by his daughters, Germaine, a 1991 alumna of NYU School of Medicine, Claudia, and Adrienne, and their families.



Phillipe N. Nyambi, Ph.D.
March 3, 1965 – February 9, 2016

Phillipe Nyambi, Associate Professor in the Pathology Department at NYUSoM and Research Microbiologist at the VAMC, received his M.Sc degree in Virology at the University of Ibadan, Nigeria (1988), and his Ph.D. degree of Applied Biology/Virology at the Vrije Universiteit Brussel, Belgium (1996). He joined the laboratory of Dr. Susan Zolla-Pazner at the Department of Pathology, NYUSoM in 1996 where he completed his postdoctoral training and started his very successful career as an independent researcher. Besides his work as a renowned HIV scientist, supervisor and reviewer, one of his major achievements was to set up a cohort of HIV-infected individuals from Cameroon – the supposed epicenter of the HIV disease. Analyses of this unique cohort have led to numerous important findings, and it will remain a precious resource for HIV research for many years.

Dr. Nyambi's journey in research really started in 1998 with his first R21 grant from NIH, which focused on identifying epitopes that define serotypes of HIV-1. His studies on the genetic and antigenic relatedness of HIV-1 strains – a major focus of his research – left a deep impact on the field. Over the past 15 years, his lab has characterized HIV-1 viral diversity and the evolution of HIV strains that infect individuals in Cameroon, China, and the USA. Dr. Nyambi’s work was the first to demonstrate the broad HIV-1 diversity in rural villages in Cameroon where transpecies transmission of HIV-1 first occurred. His work also identified two new HIV-1 recombinant viruses, CRFcpx36 and CRFcpx37. The studies on B and non-B clade HIV-1 variants among US veterans and immigrants revealed that whereas non-B clades are the predominant HIV-1 variants among immigrants, clade B variants prevail in US veterans. Moreover, he revealed that non-B clade HIV-1 variants from immigrants are more diverse immunologically than isolates from US veterans, and as a consequence, belong to more diverse immunotypes. Further studies showed that the neutralization properties of HIV-1 isolates from the same HIV-1 immunotype resemble one another more closely than isolates from heterologous HIV-1 immunotypes.

To study the biologic relevance of HIV-1 recombination, Dr. Nyambi compared the replicative capacities of recombinant viruses with those of their parental strains. This demonstrated that the CRF02_AG recombinant subgroup, commonly present in Cameroon, has a higher replicative capacity than its parental subtypes A and G – a discovery independently confirmed by others. His lab was the first of several to demonstrate that superinfection with a discordant HIV-1 subtype helps to boost the capacity of the humoral immune response to generate neutralizing antibodies against diverse HIV-1 strains. These results had very important implications for HIV vaccine research because they suggested that a good immunogen in any cocktail vaccine must comprise diverse genomic variants.

Dr. Nyambi published over 60 articles in peer reviewed journals, and was the PI of five NIH-funded grants and two Merit Review grants from the Department of Veterans Affairs. He was an Editorial Board member of the journal ISRN Immunology. Dr. Nyambi served as ad hoc reviewer for several journals and different study sections at the NIH.

Dr. Nyambi was the main organizer of training workshops in Cameroon on new methods and strategies to diagnose HIV-1 infection in regions where diverse HIV-1 subtypes and recombinant viruses predominate. These workshops were organized annually under the auspices of NYU’s NIH-sponsored Fogarty AIDS International Training and Research Program on which he was a Co-PI. Since 2013, they also received funding from the HIV Training Grant, of which Dr. Nyambi was the Director. These workshops trained and will continue training personnel from resource-limited labs and public health institutions in Cameroon.



Irwin Feigin, MD
May 13, 1915–January 22, 2015

J Neuropathol Exp Neurol
Copyright © 2015 by American Association of Neuropathologists, Inc.
Vol. 74, No. 12 December 2015 pp. 1178–1179

Esteemed neuroscientist and former Professor of Neuropathology at New York University Medical Center, Irwin Feigin, MD, was born on May 13, 1915, in Manhattan, and died peacefully on January 22, 2015, in Jamaica, Queens, New York. During World War II, Dr. Feigin attended Columbia College at Columbia University (from where he graduated at the top of his class), and attended the New York University School of Medicine. Dr. Feigin then served for the United States Army in the Medical corps, landing in France the day after D-Day. While working for the military, he was engaged in research on the evidence of German biological warfare. Dr. Feigin's experience on the beaches of Normandy engendered a life-long abhorrence of aggression.

Returning to the US, Dr. Feigin began his research career in neuropathology at NY Presbyterian Medical Center, where he worked with the eminent pathologist Dr. Abner Wolf (who would later become his brother-in-law). Dr. Feigin then spent time working at both Syndenham Hospital and Mount Sinai before joining the faculty at NYU, where he remained until his retirement in 1994. Dr. Feigin became the director of the neuropathology laboratory at NYU Medical Center and Bellevue Hospital in 1956. Throughout his time at NYU...

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