PRC presents 2005 awards to two young investigators

The President's Research Council has named two outstanding UT Southwestern investigators - one who is seeking ways to stop a deadly childhood cancer and another who is studying a bacterium that causes severe gastrointestinal disease - as recipients of its 2005 Distinguished Young Researcher Award.

Dr. Rene Galindo, a pediatric pathologist, and Dr. David Hendrixson, a microbiologist, each received a $70,000 award at the council's annual dinner May 24.
"The PRC Award winners were selected from a group of extraordinary nominees representing a wide variety of research areas," said Dr. Kern Wildenthal, UT Southwestern president. "Drs. Galindo and Hendrixson are representative of the best young researchers from around the world who are being recruited to UT Southwestern to discover the secrets of biology and search for cures to human disease."

Drs. David Hendrixson (left) and Rene Galindo have received the 2005 President's Research Council Distinguished Young Researcher Award. Each will receive a $70,000 grant to support their investigation.

Dr. Galindo is a second-year fellow in the Physician Scientist Training Program, which provides training and career counseling for young physicians who want to pursue a parallel career as researchers.

He currently is pursuing postdoctoral research in the departments of pathology and molecular biology aimed at unraveling the genetic basis of an aggressive cancer that attacks infants and children. Using fruit flies as a model, Dr. Galindo focuses on two individual genes that become abnormally fused, creating a composite protein called PAX-FKHR. This protein causes the formation of an aggressive, muscle-type cancer called alveolar rhabdomyosarcoma. 

"Despite intensive study, little is known about how PAX-FKHR is cancer-promoting," Dr. Galindo said. "By isolating previously unknown genes in the origination and progression of this disease, I hope to provide avenues for new therapeutic targets as well as to refine other experimental systems, with the long-term aim of improving the ability of physicians to treat this deadly disease."

Dr. Galindo received his doctorate in genetics and development in 1998 and his medical degree in 2000, both as part of UT Southwestern's Medical Scientist Training Program. He completed his residency in anatomic pathology at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and a fellowship in pediatric pathology at Children's Medical Center Dallas. He will join the UT Southwestern faculty in July of 2005.

Dr. Hendrixson, was was appointed as an assistant professor of microbiology in 2004, is conducting research aimed at ridding the world of one of the most common and severe forms of diarrheal disease in humans. His work on the bacterium Campylobacter jejuni, one of the major causes of food-borne diarrheal illness in humans, focuses in part on the bacterium's flagellum, a rotating appendage the organism uses for locomotion.

"This bacterium also lives in the gastrointestinal tract of birds, such as chickens, where it is harmless to the animal, but when passed on to humans it causes an inflammatory syndrome leading to mild to severe, bloody diarrhea," Dr. Hendrixson said. "The flagellum is one factor that allows the bacterium to survive in both humans and birds."

Dr. Hendrixson is studying the genes that are involved in the function and regulation of the flagellum, as well as genes the bacterium needs to survive within a bird host. Understanding how these genes and their proteins help the bacterium survive may lead to new strategies to eradicate it from chickens and thus decrease the amount of the bacterium in our food supply, or possibly to a vaccine to fight the disease in humans, he said.

Dr. Hendrixson earned his doctorate in molecular microbiology and microbial pathogenesis from Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis and completed a postdoctoral research fellowship at the University of Michigan Medical School before joining UT Southwestern faculty.

The Distinguished Young Researcher 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. In commemoration of the PRC's 20-year history, the couple has made a special $20,000 donation to enable each young investigator award to be $70,000 this year rather than the usual $60,000.

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