Dr. Alan D. Schreiber, 75, physician-scientist who headed research lab at Penn

Dr. Alan D. Schreiber, 75, of Philadelphia, professor emeritus of medicine, researcher, and former assistant dean for research at the University of Pennsylvania’s Perelman School of Medicine, died Monday, Oct. 2, in Penn Hospice at Rittenhouse after a long battle with Parkinson’s disease.

Camera icon Courtesy of the family
Dr. Alan D. Schreiber

Dr. Schreiber spent his professional life as a physician-scientist at Penn, where he ran a productive laboratory and saw patients with blood disorders. He attained the rank of professor of medicine with tenure at the relatively young age of 42.

In a statement, Penn lauded Dr. Schreiber for his internationally recognized work in immunohematology. “Alan generated a valuable research legacy and trained numerous physicians who have embarked on successful independent careers,” the statement read. “He will be greatly missed as both a colleague and friend.”

Dr. Schreiber’s research centered on the role of blood cell types in disease, especially the molecular and cell biology of Fc-gamma receptors. The receptors, part of the immune system, enable cells to detect and destroy microbes during infection. They also allow cells to ingest antibody-coated particles, bacteria, and antigen-antibody units, defusing these elements.

His laboratory work has had major implications for scientific understanding of thrombosis — the coagulation or clotting of the blood in a part of the circulatory system. In addition, his work explored the role of the receptors in end-stage kidney disease and in alcoholic cirrhosis, and in the molecular signaling responsible for rheumatoid arthritis and systemic lupus erythematosus.

Born in Newark, N.J., Dr. Schreiber graduated from Newark’s Weequahic High School and with honors from Rutgers University in 1963 with a bachelor’s degree in biology. He earned his medical degree in 1967 from Albert Einstein College of Medicine in the Bronx, N.Y., attending the school on full scholarship.

Dr. Schreiber completed his internship and residency at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill.

“He immediately became and embraced his role as a committed Tar Heel,” his family said. “He could have gone anywhere, but chose to go there because of his passion for college basketball.”

During the Vietnam War, Dr. Schreiber served as a commander at the National Institutes of Health, where he did research in the areas of allergy and immunology. From there, he moved to the post of research fellow at the Robert Bent Brigham Hospital of Harvard University.

Recruited by the Hematology-Oncology Division of Penn’s Department of Medicine in 1973, Dr. Schreiber spent the next 40 years in his laboratory, which was regularly supported by grants from the National Institutes of Health.

He shared the credit with others. On his Penn faculty biographical page, he listed the names of his 11 research assistants and specialists. “You should listen to his lab [colleagues] talk about him,” said his daughter, Dr. Courtney A. Schreiber. “He was truly adored, and had a wonderful team.”

He made significant contributions to the science of leukemia and was honored for this work each year from 1975 to 1980 by the Leukemia Society of America. Among his discoveries was the mechanism by which steroids inhibit the inflammatory process, and the applications of the same treatment mechanism to asthma and autoimmune diseases.  In 1987, Dr. Schreiber received the NIH Merit Award.

As chairman of Penn’s Graduate Group in Immunology from 1987 to 1993, he flourished as a mentor and teacher. He authored over 250 scientific publications and filed several dozen patents.

In 1994, he earned the first international immunology award granted by the University of Kyoto in Japan.

Although scientific investigation was one pillar of Dr. Schreiber’s life, the other was family. He was married for 50 years to Pamela Schreiber. The couple raised two daughters, whom he adored. The Schreibers lived in Mount Airy before moving to Center City five years ago.

“Truly, my father was an unbelievable family man,” his daughter said.

Dr. Schreiber was the president of the Penn Chapter of Professors for Peace in the Middle East. He enjoyed studying Civil War history and the life of Abraham Lincoln. He thrived on classical and opera music, and NBA basketball, Philly style.

“In the days of Dr J [76ers star Julius Erving], we were there always,” his daughter said of the games.

Besides his wife and daughter, he is survived by another daughter, Rebecca W. Schreiber; four grandchildren; a sister, and a niece and nephew.

A funeral will be at 3 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 4, at Congregation Rodeph Shalom, 615 N. Broad St., Philadelphia. Interment will be private.

Memorial donations made be made to Penn’s neurology department via: https://www.pennmedicine.org/departments-and-centers/neurology/patient-care; or to PEACE, the Comprehensive Family Planning and Pregnancy Loss at Penn Medicine via: https://www.PennMedicine.org/GivetoWomensHealth; or to the Islesboro Trust in Maine via: http://islesboroislandstrust.org.