Stem cell expert to present on Science Sunday at the 25th Annual HPS Network Conference

Dr. Konstantinos D. Alysandratos, MD, PhD, will present on Science Sunday to the HPS community at the 25th Annual HPS Network Conference, March 9 – 11, at the Long Island Marriott in Uniondale, N.Y. His presentation will help us understand what different types of stem cells are, and how they might relate to current and future research on Hermansky-Pudlak Syndrome. He will be giving a more scientific presentation to Meeting of the Minds, an invitation-only HPS researcher meeting held the day before.

Dr. Alysandratos is a pulmonary and critical care fellow at Boston Medical Center. He also is part of the team at the Center for Regenerative Medicine at Boston University as part of Dr. Kotton’s lab. He is in the third year of his fellowship and is working on a stem cell model for the study of surfactant protein C mutations associated with childhood and familial pulmonary fibrosis. He received his Doctorate of Medicine from the University of Athens and embarked on his research journey after winning a competitive 3-year scholarship from the Hellenic State Scholarships Foundation. As part of his doctoral work under the mentorship of Dr. Theoharides at Tufts University, he studied the interplay between neuropeptides and cytokines in the pathogenesis of atopic dermatitis and their role on mast cell activation.  He has also contributed to translational discoveries relating to mast cell activation in neurodevelopmental disorders such as autism spectrum disorders that may inform novel therapeutic approaches. Dr. Alysandratos completed his internal medicine training at UT Southwestern Medical Center, during which time he developed his passion for intensive and pulmonary care.

A Run Through History raises money for HPS Network

 

Approximately 80 runners and walkers participated in A Run Through History in Oyster Bay, NY in October, 2017. The event was a fundraiser for the HPS Network and another Oyster Bay, NY-based non-profit Peerpals.org. Peerpals.org helps preschoolers with disabilities integrate into their community through activities and play dates.

Joey Bertolini, the son of long-time HPS Network volunteer Kerri Bertolini, won the race. Laura and Molly Friedman, daughters of HPS Network Director of Medical Affairs Valerie Friedman, came in second and third place respectively in their age groups.

Thank you so much to everyone who participated and made A Run Through History possible!

Appells speak at Sarah Lawrence College

Donna Appell, President and Founder of the Hermansky-Pudlak Syndrome (HPS) Network, and her daughter Ashley Appell, spoke to a class of soon-to-be genetic counselors at Sarah Lawrence College in early December. The focus of the class was genetics in pediatrics.

Donna Appell spoke to the students about the value of non-profit patient organizations as referral agencies. She spoke about the resources organizations, such as the HPS Network, can provide to counselors, as well as their patients. Not only do non-profits like the HPS Network provide emotional support, but they also can provide ongoing information about standards of care, research and new treatment options. Their perspective can identify useful resources that might otherwise go unidentified.

Ashley Appell spoke about the challenges of transitioning to adult medicine with a complex genetic disorder.

“We are always thrilled to speak at Sarah Lawrence College,” said Donna Appell, “We enjoy the students, and their interests and questions, so much. It’s a great opportunity.”

 

Treasured HPS Network volunteer Ann-Delia Bayer passes away

Ann-Delia Bayer, a longtime volunteer with the HPS Network, passed away on Dec. 9th, 2017. She is survived by her husband Robert Bayer and her daughters Katrina and Sarah as well as her brother Timothy (Stacie) Valentine and his children Corrine and Jena.

Bayer was actively involved in HPS Network events, even though no one in her family was affected by the syndrome. For a decade she managed the kids’ dance party on Friday night at the HPS Network conference. The party gives kids affected by Hermansky-Pudlak Syndrome, their siblings and the kids of adults with HPS, a chance to have fun together and get to know one another. Bayer also regularly volunteered at the HPS Network booth at the Oyster Festival, held annually in Oyster Bay, N.Y. and at the HPS Network annual Christmas Concert. Bayer knew the Appell family through their church and started her volunteering with the HPS Network when she heard about the Network’s need for volunteers to help with the annual conference.

“AnnDelia my heart is broken. You were a quiet warrior with the biggest heart of anyone I knew,” says Donna Appell Executive Director and Founder of the HPS Network and AnnDelia’s friend, “You were always so humble and kind. Your thoughts were always about helping others. I don’t want to say good bye. I never will.”

Her family has asked that in lieu of flowers, donations be made in her memory to the HPS Network.

 

HPS Network attends Pulmonary Fibrosis Summit

The HPS Network attended the Pulmonary Fibrosis Summit Nov. 10 – 12 in Nashville, TN. The summit was organized by the Pulmonary Fibrosis Foundation and featured tracks for patients and caregivers, as well as medical professionals. “The content at the Pulmonary Fibrosis Summit was very robust,” says Donna Appell, President and CEO of the Hermansky-Pudlak Syndrome Network, “It was exciting to see so much interest in the genetics behind pulmonary fibrosis, as well as a talk about Hermansky-Pudlak Syndrome given by Dr. Lisa Young.” Appell reported a myriad of potential medications in the pipeline to treat pulmonary fibrosis. That, coupled with other potential therapies such as the use of stem cells, was hopeful for everyone in the pulmonary fibrosis community.Nancy Lee, a board member of the HPS Network and a double lung transplant recipient, also attended the event.

HPS Network joins coalition of rare disease organizations to oppose repeal of the Orphan Drug Tax Credit

The HPS Network has joined with the National Organization of Rare Disorders (NORD) and more than 200 rare disease organizations to oppose repeal of the Orphan Drug Tax Credit within the proposed Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. This tax credit is one of the only a few incentives to encourage pharmaceutical companies to develop treatments for rare disorders. Currently, 95 percent of people affected by a rare disorder have no FDA approved treatment, including those with Hermansky-Pudlak Syndrome. Rare disorders affect 1 in 10 Americans.

The credit allows pharmaceutical companies to claim a tax credit of 50 percent of the qualified costs of clinical research and drug testing of orphan drugs. It was first implemented in 1983. Since then, 3,500 drugs potential treatments have been eligible for the credit, and 500 orphan therapies have made it all the way to FDA approval. Yet, there is still so much work to do!

It isn’t too early to contact your member of Congress. To find out how, go to: https://rarediseases.org/advocate/policy-priorities/contact-representatives/

 

Purchase coffee and tea to help fund the cure

Sandra Ocasio and her daughter Cassandra Mendez Ocasio are holding an online fundraiser to raise money for the Hermansky-Pudlak Syndrome (HPS). The fundraiser will run through Nov. 14 and is selling various coffee and tea products. “I bought some tea last year to give as Christmas gifts. It was a great way to not just give a gift, but to give a gift that gave twice!” says Heather Kirkwood, Vice President and Director of Communications for the HPS Network. To make a purchase, go to:  https://form.jotform.com/hpstogether/coffee-break-for-hps

Research Alert: HPS Network tracking medical issues, looking for HPSers with specific characteristics

Valerie Friedman RN and Director of Medical Affairs for the Hermansky-Pudlak Syndrome Network, is tracking several medical issues we’ve noticed among the HPS community. We DO NOT know if they are in any way related to HPS, but would like to collect data that, if significant, could be shared with HPS researchers. If you have any of these medical issues, please e-mail Valerie at vfriedman@hpsnetwork.org and let her know so that she can add it to your profile in our membership database:

  • Rheumatoid Arthritis
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Multiple Sclerosis
  • Lupus
  • Kidney disease

The HPS Network is also tracking people with albinism who have too many dense bodies to meet the diagnostic criteria for HPS currently, yet do not have a normal number of dense bodies on their platelets. They should also not have a genetically diagnosed other type of albinism such as OCA1 or OCA2. We see an increasing number of people who fall into this category and are interested in identifying whether these cases could be a new type of HPS or another form of albinism.

Valerie is also interested in hearing about any medically significant bleeding events before an HPS diagnosis was made. These stories would be used for presentations about why accurate diagnosis of HPS is so important.

If you can help, please don’t forget to e-mail Valerie at: vfriedman@hpsnetwork.org

 

Has your contact information changed?

Please make sure to update your contact information with the HPS Network! We know many families have relocated, even temporarily, because of Hurricane Maria. If we can’t find you, we can’t reach out to you with any developments that might be helpful or important. Please encourage anyone in the HPS community you know who has had a change of address to update their information with the HPS Network. They can e-mail: info@hpsnetwork.org or they can call: (516) 922-4022.

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