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An Interview With Dr. Erik Foehr


By Zack Griggy, MSS Intern, San Marin High School, Novato

          In today's world, infectious disease remains a deadly concern to humanity. Some of these diseases include anthrax, Venezuelian equine encephalitis, bubonic plague, MERS, Eastern equine encephalitis, and, of course, botulism. Botulism is a disease that can cause paralysis and even death, but what makes botulism so different from the rest of these diseases is that the substance that causes it, botulinum toxin, is widely marketed as a beauty product under the name Botox. Dr. Erik Foehr, an expert in the fields of bioanalysis, immunogenicity risk assessment, and drug development, is currently investigating the toxin and how the body responds to it. Attend his presentation at Terra Linda High School, 320 Nova Albion Way, in Room 207 from 7:30 to 8:30 pm on September 30th.



In order to gain a little more insight before his talk, we interviewed Dr. Foehr about his work and research.


1. What drew you into the fields of pharmacology and bioanalysis?

I have always enjoyed learning about biology and how living things work.  After high school at Drake, I went to UC Davis and studied genetics and biochemistry.  I eventually worked in the biotechnology industry and specialized in pharmacology and bioanalysis.

 2. What have you studied in the past and how did this lead to your study on botulinum toxin?

I studied cell biology and how cells signal and function. I also spent many years studying immunology.  In my current job I study how botulinum toxin works and test if people develop antibodies to the toxin.

 
3. How is botulinum toxin used in beauty products? How are dangers minimized by these products?

Its a bit crazy to think something so dangerous can be used as a beauty product (it removes wrinkles).  The trick is to use a tiny amount and inject it at the site of the wrinkle. The toxin inhibits the neuro-muscular activity so that the skin looks "relaxed". They are finding other more medically relevant uses of the toxin.

 4. What do you enjoy the most about your work? What do you enjoy the least?

I enjoy learning about the huge number of experimental new drugs being developed for unmet medical needs and helping to study them. Sometimes I would like to spend more time "thinking" and less time "doing".

 5. Do you have any advice for high school students who aspire to be pharmacologists?

Study what interests you and be prepared to be a life-time learner. Science and technology move really fast and you need to adapt and learn on the go. Don't get replaced by robots!


Join us Wednesday, September 30th, at Terra Linda High School, 320 Nova Albion Way, in Room 207 from 7:30 to 8:30 to hear Dr. Foehr talk about his work and his study on botulinum toxin and other lethal diseases. 
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