PRC cites Choe, Wang as distinguished researchers

By Robin Russell / June 2011

Dr. Kevin Choe, assistant professor of radiation oncology, and Dr. Shusheng Wang, assistant professor of ophthalmology and pharmacology, are the recipients of the 2011 Distinguished Researcher Awards from the President’s Research Council.

Each received a $65,000 award at the council’s annual dinner May 17.

“The 2011 PRC award winners were selected from a group of exceptional nominees from across our campus,” said Dr. Daniel K. Podolsky, UT Southwestern president. “Drs. Choe and Wang are applying innovative approaches to important problems, and we are highly pleased that they have chosen to pursue their research here at UT Southwestern.”

A grateful Dr. Choe said that PRC support will enable him to make meaningful contributions to the understanding of glioma biology as he seeks to identify potential therapeutic targets for malignant gliomas, the most common type of brain cancer in adults.

“Malignant gliomas are notoriously resistant to conventional therapy and therefore prognosis is dismal,” Dr. Choe said. “By using mouse models of gliomas and large-scale genomic analyses, we hope to better understand what molecular changes trigger glioma formation and the intractable resilience to therapy.

“The ultimate goal is to develop more effective therapy for our patients who have this disease that is so frequently incurable,” he added.

Dr. Choe earned a doctorate in cell biology and a medical degree from the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in 2005 after receiving a degree in biology from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1997. He completed an internship at Yale University and residency at the University of Chicago before joining the UT Southwestern faculty in 2010.

Dr. Wang said that being chosen to receive this award is humbling because there are so many outstanding researchers at UT Southwestern.

He currently is investigating the role of microRNAs in retinal vascular development and disease, focusing on how they regulate multiple pathways in age-related macular degeneration (AMD). His research has therapeutic implications for neovascular AMD, the leading cause of blindness in the elderly. AMD affects about 2 million people in the U.S.

“The abnormal growth of blood vessels in the back of the eye is a hallmark of the disease, but so far, therapy to stem this growth has had limited effectiveness,” Dr. Wang said. “There is still a great need for developing a superior therapy, and researching the function of microRNAs holds great promise.”

Dr. Wang received his doctoral degree in developmental biology from Tulane University after earning a master’s degree in cell biology from Peking University in Beijing. He went on to do postdoctoral work in molecular biology at UT Southwestern before joining the faculty in 2009.

The Distinguished Research Awards are presented annually by the President’s Research Council, which is made up of community leaders interested in learning about and advancing medical research at UT Southwestern. Its membership fees support research by new faculty investigators. The organization was founded in 1985 by Cece Smith and Ford Lacy.

President’s Research Council members are invited to attend four lectures a year given by leading UT Southwestern researchers as well as an annual banquet honoring awardees. For membership information, contact the Office of Development at 214-648-2344.

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Dr. Podolsky holds the Philip O’Bryan Montgomery Jr., M.D., Distinguished Presidential Chair in Academic Administration and the Doris and Bryan Wildenthal Distinguished Chair in Medical Science.