Mangelsdorf elected to National Academy of Sciences

Dr. David Mangelsdorf
Dr. David Mangelsdorf

DALLAS — April 29, 2008 — The National Academy of Sciences today elected Dr. David Mangelsdorf, chairman of pharmacology at
UT Southwestern Medical Center and a Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator, to membership, one of the highest honors attainable by an American scientist.

Three other Texans, all from UT Austin, were among the 72 new members and 18 foreign associates who were elected today to the NAS. They are Dr. Richard Aldrich, chairman of neurobiology in the School of Biological Sciences; Dr. Wilson Geisler, professor of psychology and biomedical engineering; and Dr. David Hillis, director of the Center for Computational Biology and Bioinformatics.

With Dr. Mangelsdorf’s election, UT Southwestern now has 18 faculty members currently serving in the esteemed organization. There are now 24 NAS members at Texas academic medical institutions, and 75 percent of those are at UT Southwestern.

“A unique strength of UT Southwestern is not just the caliber of its great science, but also its culture of mentorship. I am grateful to have benefited from both of these attributes,” said Dr. Mangelsdorf, who holds the Doris and Bryan Wildenthal Distinguished Chair in Medical Science. “The National Academy of Sciences members here at UT Southwestern have long been my role models and to now be recognized amongst them is a marvelous honor.”

Dr. Mangelsdorf is an internationally prominent researcher in lipid biology and has made major contributions to the understanding of the mechanisms that control cholesterol and bile acid metabolism. His work complements the Nobel Prize-winning research on cholesterol metabolism carried out at UT Southwestern by Dr. Michael Brown, director of the Erik Jonsson Center for Research in Molecular Genetics and Human Disease, and Dr. Joseph Goldstein, chairman of molecular genetics.

Dr. Mangelsdorf’s research focuses on nuclear receptors, proteins that turn genes on and off in the body and serve as sensors in protecting human cells against unusually high and possibly toxic levels of lipids, such as cholesterol and fatty acids. He has discovered several new molecules, called ligands, that activate so-called orphan nuclear receptors. Dr. Mangelsdorf has determined the critical role these receptors and ligands play in the regulation of lipid and bile acid metabolism and the governance of cholesterol, which could lead researchers to the development of new drugs to fight high cholesterol and related diseases.

“David and his co-workers have contributed major insights to the understanding of lipid metabolism, especially cholesterol metabolism,” said Dr. Alfred Gilman, provost, executive vice president for academic affairs and dean of UT Southwestern Medical School. “Mike Brown and Joe Goldstein made huge contributions to the knowledge of cholesterol synthesis and disposition. David Mangelsdorf discovered the rest, and it was much more interesting and important than anyone anticipated.

”Interestingly, Dr. Mangelsdorf said he had not expected to study cholesterol or bile acids when he first came to Dallas.

“As is often the case in scientific research, there was an element of serendipity in our discoveries,” he said. “You can imagine my delight and surprise that these discoveries were made at the same institution as the world’s experts in this field.”

Dr. Gilman, Nobel laureate, fellow NAS member and Dr. Mangelsdorf’s immediate predecessor as chairman of pharmacology at UT Southwestern, added, “David has been a true citizen of the medical center. I was excited to recruit him to Dallas, thrilled to watch his career blossom, and proud that he is now my successor as chair of a wonderful Department of Pharmacology.”

Dr. Kern Wildenthal, president of UT Southwestern, said, “Election to the National Academy of Sciences is a tremendous honor that recognizes excellence in research and outstanding contributions to science. David Mangelsdorf epitomizes that excellence and exemplifies UT Southwestern’s institutional dedication to furthering scientific knowledge and its use to benefit mankind.” 

Dr. Mangelsdorf earned his doctorate in biochemistry from the University of Arizona in Tucson and completed his postdoctoral studies at the Salk Institute for Biological Sciences. He graduated from Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff with a bachelor’s degree in aquatic biology and chemistry. Dr. Mangelsdorf joined UT Southwestern in 1993 and was named chairman of pharmacology in 2006.

Among his many professional accomplishments, Dr. Mangelsdorf was honored in 2007 with an Edith and Peter O’Donnell Award, given by The Academy of Medicine, Engineering and Science of Texas to recognize the state’s top rising stars in research.

In 2003 he was awarded Germany’s highly respected Heinrich Wieland Prize for his research on lipids. This prestigious international science award is given annually to one individual for research in the fields of biochemistry, chemistry, and the physiology of fats and lipids.

Other awards he has received include the Transatlantic Medal from the European Society of Endocrinology, the Gerald D. Aurbach Award and the Richard E. Weitzman Memorial Award from the Endocrine Society, and the Adolf Windaus Prize for Bile Acid Research from the Falk Foundation.

The election of new NAS members was announced during the 145th annual meeting of the academy in Washington, D.C.  The NAS is a private, nonprofit society of distinguished scholars engaged in scientific and engineering research.

Other UT Southwestern faculty who are members of the NAS and the year they were appointed are: Ronald W. Estabrook, Ph.D., 1979; Michael S. Brown, M.D., 1980; Joseph L. Goldstein, M.D., 1980; Jean D. Wilson, M.D., 1983; Jonathan W. Uhr, M.D., 1984; Alfred G. Gilman, M.D., Ph.D., 1985; Roger H. Unger, M.D., 1986; Steven L. McKnight, Ph.D., 1992; Ellen S. Vitetta, Ph.D., 1994; Johann Deisenhofer, Ph.D., 1997; Eric N. Olson, Ph.D., 2000; Thomas C. Südhof, M.D., 2002; Masashi Yanagisawa, M.D., Ph.D., 2003; Xiaodong Wang, Ph.D., 2004; Melanie Cobb, Ph.D., 2006; David Russell, Ph.D., 2006; and Helen Hobbs, M.D., 2007.

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Media Contact: Amanda Siegfried
214-648-3404
amanda.siegfried@utsouthwestern.edu

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