Uhr becomes professor emeritus

Dr. Jonathan Uhr, one of UT Southwestern’s most distinguished and revered scientists, has been named professor emeritus. An immunology researcher at the medical center since 1972, Dr. Uhr came to Texas when Dr. Donald Seldin, then chairman of internal medicine, recruited him to chair the medical center’s microbiology department.

Dr. Jonathan Uhr

A member of the National Academy of Sciences, Dr. Uhr served as chairman of microbiology for 25 years, stepping down in 1997 to join the Cancer Immunobiology Center, which is directed by one of his most accomplished recruits, Dr. Ellen Vitetta.

“When Jon Uhr recruited me here from New York, he made it clear that his goal was to create the best microbiology department in the country, with a very strong immunology component,” said Dr. Vitetta, who also is an NAS member and one of the most highly cited researchers in the country. “When I saw the list of people he had brought on board, I was extremely impressed. I knew it would be a fantastic place to work. I was not disappointed.”

Dr. Vitetta, in turn, trained Dr. Linda Buck, who would also become a member of the NAS and go on to win the 2004 Nobel Prize in physiology or medicine. Dr. Buck was the first alumna of UT Southwestern Graduate School for Biomedical Sciences to receive the prize.

An internationally recognized biomedical researcher, Dr. Uhr also has mentored many accomplished scientists. He elucidated how antibodies are made by plasma cells and also was involved in the development of RhoGam, a medicine that prevents an immunological disease in infants.

In addition to his research on B cell biology, Dr. Uhr has been a pioneer in the investigation of dormant cancer cells and circulating tumor cells (CTCs), which are shed from primary tumors. A commercialized test to detect CTCs in the human bloodstream, based on Dr. Uhr’s patent, is now used routinely in clinical laboratories. He has been working with colleagues to combine that technique with advanced imaging technology to characterize captured cancer cells, which could improve diagnosis, monitoring and treatment of the disease.

“I have thoroughly enjoyed my almost four decades at UT Southwestern, both professionally and personally,” Dr. Uhr said, noting that, along with many friends on the faculty, former UT Southwestern presidents Dr. Charles Sprague and Dr. Kern Wildenthal had been very supportive. “I am particularly excited about the potential impact of new technologies on early diagnosis and improved treatment of cancer. I hope that UT Southwestern will excel in this important field.”

Dr. Uhr received his medical degree from New York University School of Medicine after graduating from Cornell University. He completed residencies in pathology and internal medicine at Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York City and fellowships in immunology at the Hall Institute in Melbourne and at NYU School of Medicine. Prior to his appointment at UT Southwestern he was director of the Irvington House Institute and professor of internal medicine at NYU’s medical school.

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Dr. Vitetta holds the Scheryle Simmons Patigian Distinguished Chair in Cancer Immunobiology.

Week of Jan. 15-21, 2011 /