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UT Southwestern Physiology Chair, molecular geneticist elected to prestigious National Academy of Sciences

DALLAS – May 02, 2023 – The National Academy of Sciences elected two more UT Southwestern Medical Center scientists in the fields of molecular genetics and physiology into its membership, one of the highest honors for American scientists.

Russell DeBose-Boyd, Ph.D., Professor of Molecular Genetics, and Duojia Pan, Ph.D., Chair of Physiology and a Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigator, were elected by their peers in recognition of the importance of their scientific discoveries. Dr. DeBose-Boyd discovered the pathway by which sterol and nonsterol isoprenoids combine to regulate the degradation of HMG-CoA reductase, basic mechanisms that inform the prevention and treatment of heart disease. Dr. Pan identified the “Hippo” pathway of intracellular signaling, which plays important roles in the determination of organ size, tissue regeneration, and tumorigenesis.

“The elections of Dr. DeBose-Boyd and Dr. Pan to the National Academy of Sciences acknowledge the pioneering contributions they have made, respectively, to advance our understanding of cholesterol synthesis and statin resistance, and tumorigenesis and the use of mTOR inhibitors in the treatment of tumors in the brain and other systems,” said Daniel K. Podolsky, M.D., President of UT Southwestern. “This high honor is a reflection of scientific excellence and the impact of these outstanding investigators.”

Drs. DeBose-Boyd and Pan are among 120 new U.S. and 23 nonvoting foreign members announced Tuesday. With their elections, UT Southwestern now has 26 faculty who are members of the National Academy of Sciences, more than any other institution in Texas.

“Today’s news is a testament to the caliber and expanse of science at UT Southwestern and serves as an inspiration to new generations of trainees and scientists who will continue the long tradition of discovery that we embody,” said W. P. Andrew Lee, M.D., Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs, Provost, and Dean of UT Southwestern Medical School.

Russell DeBose-Boyd, Ph.D.

Russell DeBose-Boyd, Ph.D.
Russell DeBose-Boyd, Ph.D., Professor of Molecular Genetics, holds the Beatrice and Miguel Elias Distinguished Chair in Biomedical Science.

Beatrice and Miguel Elias Distinguished Chair in Biomedical Science

The DeBose-Boyd laboratory focuses on the regulation of HMG-CoA reductase, which produces mevalonate, a crucial intermediate in the synthesis of cholesterol. Inhibitors of HMG-CoA reductase, collectively called statins, have revolutionized the treatment of high blood cholesterol levels. Statins trigger effects that result in the decrease of LDL cholesterol, thereby reducing the incidence of heart attacks. The deficiency in mevalonate-derived products that accompany statin therapy leads to a compensatory increase in HMG-CoA reductase protein, resulting in the need for higher doses of the drug to maintain cholesterol-lowering effects. Understanding the mechanisms for this compensatory increase in HMG-CoA reductase provides a foundation for the development of novel therapies that enhance the therapeutic effectiveness of statins.

Dr. DeBose-Boyd joined UT Southwestern in the laboratory of Nobel Laureates Joseph L. Goldstein, M.D., and Michael S. Brown, M.D., as a fellow of the Jane Coffin Childs Memorial Fund for Medical Research. He joined the UT Southwestern faculty in 2003. He received an Established Investigator Award from the American Heart Association in 2005 and was appointed a Howard Hughes Medical Institute Early Career Scientist in 2009. In 2022, he was recognized by the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology with the Avanti Award in Lipids for outstanding research contributions in that field. He also mentors students in Biological Chemistry, and Cell and Molecular Biology in the UT Southwestern Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences. 

Duojia Pan, Ph.D.

Duojia Pan, Ph.D.
Duojia Pan, Ph.D., Chair of Physiology and a Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigator, holds the Fouad A. and Val Imm Bashour Distinguished Chair in Physiology.

Fouad A. and Val Imm Bashour Distinguished Chair in Physiology

The Pan laboratory investigates the molecular mechanisms of growth control and tissue homeostasis. Dr. Pan is best known for foundational discoveries of the Hippo signaling pathway that controls organ size in animals. Using Drosophila as a model, his lab made a series of discoveries that defined, in a stepwise manner, the key molecular events in the Hippo signaling pathway. His team further established a critical role for that pathway in controlling mammalian organ size, regeneration, and tumorigenesis.

In addition to research on the Hippo pathway, the Pan lab elucidated the molecular function of the Tsc1 and Tsc2 tumor suppressor genes, linking Tsc1/Tsc2 to Rheb and TOR signaling. This work provided the key molecular insight for the use of mTOR inhibitors in the treatment of tuberous sclerosis, a genetic disease that can lead to tumor development in the brain, spinal cord, and organs. Current efforts are aimed at further understanding the composition, mechanism, and regulation of the Hippo pathway, clarifying its physiological roles in normal development and diseases, and discovery of chemical probes that target it.

In mid-2022, Dr. Pan received the Passano Award related to his Hippo pathway discoveries. Dr. Pan was named a Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigator in 2008 and a Fellow of the American Association for Advancement of Science in 2012 and was awarded the Paul Marks Prize for Cancer Research in 2013. He was named the fifth Chairman of Physiology at UT Southwestern in 2016. Dr. Pan mentors students in Genetics, and Development and Disease for the UT Southwestern Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences.

UTSW Faculty

The Medical Center has four degree-granting institutions: UT Southwestern Medical School, UT Southwestern Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences, UT Southwestern School of Health Professions, and the Peter O’Donnell Jr. School of Public Health. The schools train more than 3,900 medical, graduate, and health profession students, residents, and postdoctoral fellows each year. Ongoing support from federal agencies, such as the National Institutes of Health, along with foundations, individuals, and corporations fund $627 million per year in research.

The institution’s faculty has received six Nobel Prizes and currently includes nearly 3,400 members. Of those, there are 18 members of the National Academy of Medicine and 14 Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigators. UT Southwestern faculty who are members of the NAS, and the years they were elected, are: Michael Brown, M.D., and Joseph Goldstein, M.D., both in 1980; Jonathan Uhr, M.D., 1984; Steven McKnight, Ph.D., 1992; Ellen Vitetta, Ph.D., 1994; Johann Deisenhofer, Ph.D., 1997; Eric Olson, Ph.D., 2000; Joseph Takahashi, Ph.D., and Masashi Yanagisawa, M.D., Ph.D., 2003; Melanie Cobb, Ph.D., and David W. Russell, Ph.D., 2006; Helen Hobbs, M.D., 2007; Bruce Beutler, M.D., and David Mangelsdorf, Ph.D., 2008; Zhijian “James” Chen, Ph.D., 2014; Lora Hooper, Ph.D., and Steven Kliewer, Ph.D., 2015; Joan W. Conaway, Ph.D., Sean Morrison, Ph.D., Kim Orth, Ph.D., and Mike Rosen, Ph.D., 2020; Donald Hilgemann, Ph.D., and Margaret Phillips, Ph.D., 2021; and Jonathan Cohen, Ph.D., 2022.

Dr. Lee holds the Atticus James Gill, M.D. Chair in Medical Science.

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.

About UT Southwestern Medical Center  

UT Southwestern, one of the nation’s premier academic medical centers, integrates pioneering biomedical research with exceptional clinical care and education. The institution’s faculty has received six Nobel Prizes, and includes 26 members of the National Academy of Sciences, 18 members of the National Academy of Medicine, and 14 Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigators. The full-time faculty of more than 2,900 is responsible for groundbreaking medical advances and is committed to translating science-driven research quickly to new clinical treatments. UT Southwestern physicians provide care in more than 80 specialties to more than 100,000 hospitalized patients, more than 360,000 emergency room cases, and oversee nearly 4 million outpatient visits a year.