Biennial Lowenthal Symposium focuses on epigenetics of psychiatric disorders

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Twenty years ago, VCU School of Pharmacy emeritus professor Werner Lowenthal, Ph.D., died of Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, a degenerative, incurable neurological disorder. Ironically, one of Lowenthal’s research interests was “orphan diseases,” also known as rare diseases, such as Creutzfeldt-Jakob.

To honor and commemorate her late husband – and in hopes of uncovering some of the mysteries surrounding neurological disease – Lowenthal’s wife, Hilda Meth, established the Werner Lowenthal Endowment Fund in 2000. The fund supports a graduate student research award as well as a biennial symposium in his name. It was Meth’s hope that the research fostered by the fund and symposium would discover viable treatments for people diagnosed with these rare disorders.

This year’s Biennial Lowenthal Symposium, co-sponsored by the Lowenthal Endowment Fund and the School of Pharmacy’s Center for Biomarker Research and Personalized Medicine, takes place from 9:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. on May 28 in the Court End Ballroom at Larrick Student Center, 900 Turpin St. The symposium’s theme is “Epigenetics of Psychiatric Disorders and Its Potential to Improve Treatment.”

Epigenetics is the study of changes in gene activity – as a result of environmental factors and drug treatment, for example – rather than alterations in the genetic code. Epigenetic markers form a promising new class of biomarkers suitable for use in clinical settings.

Scientists from Montreal, Toronto, Iowa City, Chicago, Washington, D.C., and Richmond will discuss related topics ranging from “Novel Cytosine Modifications in Brain Function and Psychiatric Disease” to “Epigenetics of Stress and Depression.”

Werner Lowenthal, who was employed by the School of Pharmacy from 1961 until his retirement in 1992, served as a professor of pharmacy and pharmaceutics as well as director of continuing education. He had a special passion for scholarship, said his wife, and he was always proud of the school and its research.

The Lowenthal Symposium is free of charge, but attendees are asked to register in advance.  A free lunch will be provided for those who register by May 21. Questions? Contact Gioia Casso, Center for Biomarker Research and Personalized Medicine, at or (804) 828-6098.


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