Scientist named Howard Hughes Medical Institute Early Career Scientist

Dr. Russell DeBose-Boyd
Dr. Russell DeBose-Boyd

DALLAS — March 26, 2009 — Dr. Russell DeBose-Boyd, associate professor of molecular genetics at UT Southwestern Medical Center, has been appointed a Howard Hughes Medical Institute Early Career Scientist.

He is one of 50 researchers named in a national competition by the institute to be in the new program’s inaugural group of scientists. The $200 million Early Career Scientist initiative is aimed at supporting scientists who have run their own laboratories for two to six years and now are ready to move their research programs in innovative directions.

Each Early Career Scientist receives $1.5 million in research funding over a six-year appointment to HHMI. The institute also will cover other expenses, including research space and the purchase of critical equipment.

The Howard Hughes Medical Institute, a nonprofit medical research organization that ranks as one of the nation’s largest philanthropies, has in the past two decades invested more than $8.3 billion for the support, training and education of the nation’s most creative and promising scientists.

As an HHMI Early Career Scientist, Dr. DeBose-Boyd becomes an institute employee but will continue to be based and conduct research at UT Southwestern, where he remains on the faculty.

“To be chosen in this first group of HHMI Early Career Scientists is an acknowledgement of Dr. DeBose-Boyd’s significant contributions to cholesterol research and the tremendous potential his work has to make a huge impact on the future of health care,” said Dr. Daniel K. Podolsky, president of UT Southwestern.

Dr. DeBose-Boyd’s work focuses on how the body regulates and controls cholesterol production, research that might shed light on the prevention and treatment of heart disease. Of particular interest to his lab is the enzyme HMG CoA reductase, a key player in cholesterol synthesis and the target of cholesterol-lowering statin drugs. His research has shown in detail how this enzyme is targeted for rapid degradation when certain sterols build up in cells, thereby stopping cholesterol synthesis. 

“This funding will allow my laboratory to undertake challenging new research directions that have the potential of leading to high-impact discoveries,” Dr. DeBose-Boyd said. “I am truly honored to have been selected as an HHMI Early Career Scientist through such a competitive process.”

A native of Boswell, Okla., Dr. DeBose-Boyd received his doctorate in biochemistry and molecular biology from the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center after majoring in chemistry at Southeastern Oklahoma State University. Before joining the faculty of UT Southwestern as assistant professor in 2003, he was a postdoctoral fellow in the molecular genetics laboratory of UT Southwestern’s Dr. Michael Brown and Dr. Joseph Goldstein, who received the Nobel Prize in physiology or medicine in 1985 for their discovery of the underlying mechanisms of cholesterol metabolism.

“The encouragement and guidance Dr. Brown and Dr. Goldstein provided have been key components to the success of my research,” Dr. DeBose-Boyd said. “The scientific community at UT Southwestern, especially my colleagues in the Department of Molecular Genetics, has established an environment conducive to high-quality research.”

Dr. Brown, director of the Erik Jonsson Center for Research in Molecular Genetics and Human Disease, said, “It has been a pleasure to watch Russell DeBose-Boyd’s meteoric career.  Propelled by his own brilliance he has reached rarefied heights in a very short time. All of UT Southwestern should take pride in his accomplishments.”

Dr. Goldstein, chairman of molecular genetics, added, “Russell was chosen for the HHMI Early Career Scientist award in a national competition in which more than 2,000 applicants were considered for only 50 positions. To be among the ‘chosen 50’ is a wonderful affirmation of Russell’s previous research accomplishments and his future potential for doing exciting and creative research.”    

In addition to Dr. DeBose-Boyd’s appointment as an Early Career Scientist, 12 UT Southwestern faculty members hold appointments as HHMI investigators. They are Dr. Zhijian “James” Chen, professor of molecular biology; Dr. Johann Deisenhofer, professor of biochemistry; Dr. Nick Grishin, associate professor of biochemistry; Dr. Helen Hobbs, director of the Eugene McDermott Center for Human Growth and Development and chief of clinical genetics; Dr. Lora Hooper, assistant professor of immunology; Dr. Youxing Jiang, associate professor of physiology; Dr. Beth Levine, chief of infectious diseases; Dr. David Mangelsdorf, chairman of pharmacology; Dr. Michael Rosen, professor of biochemistry; Dr. Xiaodong Wang, professor of biochemistry; Dr. Masashi Yanagisawa, professor of molecular genetics; and Dr. Hongtao Yu, professor of pharmacology.


Media Contact: Amanda Siegfried

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