Ira B. Black
Ira B. Black, MD, founding director of the Stem Cell Institute of New Jersey and a past president of the Society for Neuroscience, died unexpectedly on January 10, 2006 at the University of Pennsylvania Medical Center. The cause was an infection related to a tumor, his family said. He was 64 years old.
Black was on the faculty of UMDNJ-Robert Wood Johnson Medical School where he was professor and chair of the Department of Neuroscience and Cell Biology, and director of the Joint Graduate Program in Neuroscience of Robert Wood Johnson Medical School and Rutgers University. He served as president of the Society for Neuroscience in 1993. His other responsibilities with the Society included councilor, treasurer, and chair of the program, finance and public information committees.
Ira Barrie Black was born in New York City. He graduated from the Bronx High School of Science. In 1961 he received his undergraduate degree from Columbia College where he majored in philosophy. He earned a medical degree from Harvard. Within 10 years he became chief of the Laboratory of Developmental Neurology and the Nathan Cummings Professor of Neurology at Cornell University Medical College. He joined the UMDNJ-Robert Wood Johnson Medical School in 1990.
As a clinical neurologist and neuroscientist, Black studied the underlying molecular mechanisms of brain function and cognition. He received international recognition for his pioneering work in the development of the nervous system and the role of growth factors. Recently, his team succeeded in converting bone marrow derived stem cells into neurons for potential transplantation in a variety of neurological diseases. Black’s work advanced the understanding of treatments and cures of degenerative and acute neurological diseases, including Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's disease and spinal cord injury. He was a member of the scientific advisory council of the Christopher Reeve Paralysis Foundation.
“He was uncompromising in his quest for scientific excellence and all the good that could come to humankind as a result of it,” said Harold L. Paz, dean of the Robert Wood Johnson Medical School. “Ira Black will forever be remembered not only as a world renowned leader in the field of neuroscience, but also as the visionary who launched the Stem Cell Institute of New Jersey.”
Black published approximately two hundred articles in neuroscience and three books, Cellular and Molecular Biology of Neuronal Development; Information in the Brain: a Molecular Perspective; and The Dying of Enoch Wallace: Life, Death, and the Changing Brain and its paperback version The Changing Brain: Alzheimer’s Disease and Advances in Neuroscience.
Survivors include his former wife, Janet Black, a son, Reed Black, and his fiancée Janet Davis.