David H. Alpers, MD
Dr Alpers is a product of a family environment in which academics was the family business. His father was Professor of Neurology at Jefferson Medical College, his mother a Professor of Internal Medicine at Women’s Medical College in Philadelphia, his elder brother a Professor of English at UC Berkeley, and his younger brother a Professor of African History at UCLA. Dr. Alpers himself is a graduate of Harvard College (major in Classics) and Harvard Medical School (class of 1960). His house staff training was at the Mass General Hospital, and he was a post-doctoral fellow with Gordon Tompkins at NIH, working on the induction of the lac operon in E. coli.
He returned to the GI Division in the Mass General Hospital where he studied intestinal protein synthesis, using the then current techniques of molecular biochemistry. In 1969 he became Chief of the Division of Gastroenterology at Washington University in St Louis, a position he held until 1997. During that period his laboratory studied protein synthesis in the intestine, focusing on enterocyte specific proteins such as glucoamylase, lactase, intestinal alkaline phosphatase, and also studied physiological processes related to absorption, especially the relationship of intestinal alkaline phosphatase to fat absorption. He was the first to clone a number of enterocyte specific proteins, including intestinal and liver fatty acid binding proteins (during a sabbatical year with Jeff Gordon and Arnold Strauss). He also was the first to clone gastric intrinsic factor, and embarked on a two decade long study of cobalamin absorption, including the unraveling of the role of haptocorrin in the process of cobalamin absorption (with Robert Allen and Ram Seetharam), and culminating in the 3D structure of gastric intrinsic factor.
Dr Alpers has been training fellows in gastroenterology and nutrition since 1965, 25 years as Chief of the GI Division at Washington University, and 15 years as co-founder and co-director of the Division of Nutritional Sciences at the school. He has trained pre- and post-doctoral fellows in the lab (NIH funded from 1965-2001), and clinical fellows in gastroenterology, especially in the fields of functional bowel disease and nutrition. For the past two decades he have developed a mentoring program as a part of directing pilot and feasibility programs in two separate grants (both still active), helping fellows and young faculty to obtain first time grants and complete research programs. His mentoring experience is unconditionally available to all the GI fellows and faculty, and in this regard he has had significant interactions with the junior faculty and fellows over the past decade.
Dr Alpers has been an editor for over 4 decades, including roles as Associate Editor for the J Clin Invest and Am J Clin Nutr, as Editor of Am J Physiol (GI and Liver Physiology) and Curr Opin Gastroenterology (Small Intestine and Nutrition), and as editorial board member of J Biol Chem, Gastroenterology, and Ann Rev Nutrition. He has been an Associate Editor of the Physiology of the Gastrointestinal Tract (LR Johnson ed in chief) and of the Textbook of Gastroenterology (T Yamada, ed in chief).
Since 1997 he has enjoyed a second career as a consultant in drug development and safety for drugs and products in the fields of gastroenterology, neurogastroenterology, metabolism, and nutrition. In this role he has worked to develop portfolios of GI drugs with GlaxoSmithKline and most recently with Takeda North America. Other major drug development efforts have been with Pfizer and Otsuka North America.