On August 23, Robert Kalb, MD, was formally invested as the Les Turner Professor at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine. Leaders of the medical school, the Les Turner ALS Foundation, and family and colleagues joined Dr. Kalb in celebrating this endowed professorship, which represents the highest honor in academia. Dr. Kalb also serves as the inaugural director of the Les Turner ALS Center at Northwestern Medicine.
“Endowed professorships help to build a strong foundation to move academic medical research to the next level, providing dedicated resources for our faculty to pursue their work,” said Dimitri Krainc, MD, Aaron Montgomery Ward Professor and chair of the Ken and Ruth Davee Department of Neurology, who served as the emcee at the investiture. “I would like to thank the Les Turner ALS Foundation, for without their generous gift, this celebration of Dr. Kalb would not be possible.”
“The recruitment of Dr. Kalb to lead the Les Turner ALS Center clearly fulfils and propels our shared legacy forward,” said Andrea Pauls Backman, MBA, chief executive officer of the Les Turner ALS Foundation. “We believe that naming Dr. Kalb as the Les Turner Professor cements that legacy, and we are honored to partner with him in our collective mission.”
Ms. Pauls Backman recognized and thanked Joan and Paul Rubschlager, who were in attendance. She shared: “The Les Turner ALS Foundation has enjoyed a relationship with Joan and Paul since the mid-1980s, following the death of Paul’s father from ALS. Over the years, they have been avid supporters of the Foundation. Additionally, Joan and Paul’s transformational gifts to the Les Turner ALS Center Endowed Fund have been instrumental in the creation of this endowed professorship. Thank you both for your vision and for your friendship.”
A Historical Partnership
Since its inception in 1979, the Les Turner ALS Foundation has directly contributed more than $27 million and indirectly contributed over $10 million to Northwestern in support of patient care and research for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). This close partnership has had a significant impact, resulting in several extraordinary programmatic initiatives at Northwestern, including:
- The first Les Turner ALS Research Laboratory, established in 1979;
- The Lois Insolia ALS Clinic, one of the nation’s first multidisciplinary ALS clinics, opened in 1986; and
- The Les Turner ALS Center at Northwestern Medicine, launched in 2014.
The Les Turner ALS Foundation has created two endowed professorships at the medical school. In addition to the Les Turner Professorship awarded to Dr. Kalb, the Foundation named the Les Turner ALS Foundation/Herbert C. Wenske Foundation Professorship, currently held by Teepu Siddique, MD. Dr. Siddique also serves as professor of Neurology and Cell and Molecular Biology at Feinberg.
“Our thanks go to Northwestern for being such a dedicated partner for nearly 40 years in our shared vision of a world without ALS,” said Ken Hoffman, chair of the Les Turner ALS Foundation Board of Directors. “We are confident that Dr. Kalb’s leadership and exceptional passion will accelerate the vision of the founders of the Les Turner ALS Foundation.”
The Future of ALS Research and Care at Northwestern
Born in The Bronx, New York, Dr. Kalb earned his medical degree from Cornell University College of Medicine, completed his internship and internal medicine residency training at Albert Einstein College of Medicine, and later entered the neurology residency program at Yale School of Medicine. After obtaining a Clinical Investigator Development Award from the National Institutes of Health (NIH), Dr. Kalb opened his independent laboratory at Yale in 1990 and has been awarded continuous NIH funding since then. In 2017, he was recruited to Northwestern after spending 14 years at the University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine.
Dr. Kalb has special expertise in the diagnosis and management of motor neuron diseases, and his laboratory focuses on the cell and molecular biology of these diseases. His research group has made many meaningful discoveries in this arena, including the identification of several modifier genes that suppress disease manifestations in various models.
“Bob exemplifies Northwestern values—he is a superb educator, clinician, and scientist. More importantly, he is a great human being,” said Dr. Krainc. “Congratulations, Bob—thank you for being you.”
As inaugural director of the Les Turner ALS Center at Northwestern Medicine, Dr. Kalb’s vision is straightforward: to enhance collaborations between laboratories and the clinic in order to lead to effective new treatments for ALS and a path toward a cure.
“Our accomplishments thus far would not have been possible without the Les Turner ALS Foundation. We are optimistic that we are on the verge of therapies that will bend the arc of disease, and the Foundation has played a huge role in getting us here,” said Dr. Kalb. “Science is risky, and we are going to fail many more times than we succeed, but I ask you all to have faith. Working together we can achieve what we all so desperately want—a cure for ALS.”