PRC honors Jewell, Turer as distinguished researchers

From staff reports

Drs. Jenna Jewell and Emre Turer were honored recently with 2017 Distinguished Researcher Awards from the President’s Research Council. Each year, the PRC recognizes the work of UT Southwestern investigators who are emerging leaders in their areas of research.
Drs. Jenna Jewell and Emre Turer were honored recently with 2017 Distinguished Researcher Awards from the President’s Research Council. Each year, the PRC recognizes the work of UT Southwestern investigators who are emerging leaders in their areas of research.

The UT Southwestern President’s Research Council (PRC) recently honored Dr. Jenna Jewell, Assistant Professor of Molecular Biology, and Dr. Emre Turer, Assistant Professor of Internal Medicine and a member of the Center for the Genetics of Host Defense, with 2017 Distinguished Researcher Awards.

Dr. Jewell’s research focuses on fighting cancer by working to identify novel cellular targets, while Dr. Turer is investigating gut immunity and the development of inflammatory bowel disease. Both faculty members were recognized at the annual PRC Dinner in May. Each year, the President’s Research Council recognizes the work of UT Southwestern investigators who are emerging leaders in their areas of research. Recipients are awarded $65,000 each in support of their ongoing work.

“We are grateful to the President’s Research Council for supporting outstanding early career faculty,” said Dr. Daniel K. Podolsky, President of UT Southwestern. “The funds raised by the PRC not only exemplify the philanthropic support the Medical Center receives from the Dallas community, but also demonstrate much appreciated confidence in Drs. Jewell and Turer and the potentially groundbreaking research they will carry out.”

Dr. Jenna Jewell

Dr. Jewell’s training and body of research prepared her to take on one of the leading causes of death worldwide – cancer. Before scientists can develop new treatments, however, it is important to obtain a better understanding of how nutrients trigger signaling pathways to regulate cell growth.

It is unclear how cells sense nutrients to control cell growth, as well as how these signaling pathways become dysregulated in cancer. Dr. Jewell’s lab investigates this fundamental biological process by identifying novel cellular targets in order to develop new therapies for cancer treatment.

“The PRC’s 2017 Distinguished Researcher Award will be extremely valuable in allowing my lab to explore how cancer cells grow in response to nutrients,” Dr. Jewell said. “Through this research, we hope to identify new therapeutic targets in the fight against cancer. I would like to sincerely thank the President’s Research Council for the generous support it provides for new investigators starting their careers at UT Southwestern. I am also tremendously thankful for the guidance from my Chairman, Dr. Eric Olson, who has created an exceptional Molecular Biology Department with terrific colleagues, cutting-edge science, and a collaborative environment.”

Dr. Jewell, who joined the UT Southwestern faculty in March 2015, received a Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas (CPRIT) Recruitment of First-Time, Tenure-Track Faculty Members Award. This prestigious grant program recognizes emerging investigators pursuing their first faculty appointment who have the ability to make outstanding contributions to the field of cancer research. Dr. Jewell also received a CPRIT High Impact/High Risk Research Award that supports new and innovative developmental projects with exceptionally promising topics.

“Jenna is a spectacular early career researcher,” Dr. Olson noted in his recommendation to the PRC. “Since her arrival, she has hit the ground running and has built a vibrant laboratory teeming with energetic personnel. Jenna is upbeat, smart, and engaging. She has a thoroughly considered research plan based on a solid foundation of data, and she is poised to become a leader in her field.”

Dr. Jewell earned undergraduate degrees in chemistry and political science from Fort Lewis College in Durango, Colorado, before receiving her doctorate in biochemistry and molecular biology from Indiana University. Her graduate work focused on understanding how proteins regulate glucose-stimulated insulin secretion from the pancreas and insulin-stimulated glucose uptake in peripheral tissues, and how defects in these processes can result in diabetes. Dr. Jewell completed her postdoctoral work in the laboratory of Dr. Kun-Liang Guan at the University of California, San Diego. During this time, she was awarded fellowships from the Cancer Therapeutics Training Program and The Hartwell Foundation.

Dr. Emre Turer

Dr. Turer’s current clinical work targets inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), while his research focus is on discovering new genes involved in maintaining intestinal homeostasis.

“This funding will help me in the transition to an independent investigator in the field of intestinal immunology,” Dr. Turer said. “I am very appreciative of this research award, and I owe the President’s Research Council a great deal for my future success. I hope that any success will inspire the Council to help fund even more early career scientists.”

Dr. Turer was recruited to UT Southwestern in 2009 as part of the Physician Scientist Training Program, a combined initiative for internal medicine residency and fellowship training. He eventually joined the Gastroenterology and Hepatology Fellowship Program where, in addition to his clinical training, he invested three extra years of postdoctoral training. For this stage, Dr. Turer joined the laboratory of Nobel Laureate Dr. Bruce Beutler, whose research team at the Center for the Genetics of Host Defense took part in one of the largest and most ambitious worldwide efforts of its kind that has begun to uncover previously unsuspected pathways relevant to gut immunity and the development of IBD. These efforts have led to several important publications, including a recent first-author article in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences that detailed the forward-genetic approach to discovering new pathways.

“Dr. Turer’s career development encapsulates his exceptional aptitudes and his ability to achieve excellence in everything he does,” Dr. David H. Johnson, Chairman of Internal Medicine, said in his PRC recommendation. “Altogether, his outstanding track record, coupled with the exceptional mentorship available to him as well as the original and productive line of investigation that he has initiated, indicate without a doubt that Dr. Turer is positioned to achieve even greater things in the future.”

Dr. Turer obtained a Ph.D. in immunology in 2007 and completed his medical degree at the University of Chicago Pritzker School of Medicine in 2009. During his doctoral training, Dr. Turer joined the laboratory of Dr. Averil Ma, a leading molecular immunologist credited with uncovering key regulators of the inflammatory process, particularly the protein A20 that is strongly linked to diseases such as IBD and lupus. Dr. Turer distinguished himself as a graduate student, publishing seven papers, including four highly influential papers in his field that were published in Nature, Nature Immunology, and Immunity.

The President’s Research Council is made up of community members interested in learning about and advancing medical research at UT Southwestern. Its membership fees support research by new faculty investigators. Membership includes invitations to attend four lectures a year given by leading UT Southwestern researchers, as well as an annual dinner honoring awardees.

For membership information, contact the UT Southwestern Office of Development at 214-648-2344.

Dr. Beutler, a Regental Professor and Professor of Immunology, holds the Raymond and Ellen Willie Distinguished Chair in Cancer Research, in Honor of Laverne and Raymond Willie, Sr.

Dr. Johnson holds the Donald W. Seldin Distinguished Chair in Internal Medicine.

Dr. Olson holds the Pogue Distinguished Chair in Research on Cardiac Birth Defects, the Robert A. Welch Distinguished Chair in Science, and the Annie and Willie Nelson Professorship in Stem Cell Research.

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