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UT Southwestern molecular geneticist wins Hill Prize from TAMEST

Russell DeBose-Boyd, Ph.D., to continue cholesterol-related research with new award from the Texas Academy of Medicine, Engineering, Science and Technology

Russell DeBose-Boyd, Ph.D. Hill prize winner
Photo credit: Courtesy of TAMEST (Texas Academy of Medicine, Engineering, Science and Technology)

DALLAS – Feb. 05, 2024 – Russell DeBose-Boyd, Ph.D., Professor of Molecular Genetics at UT Southwestern Medical Center, has been awarded the Hill Prize in Biological Sciences from the Texas Academy of Medicine, Engineering, Science and Technology (TAMEST) in recognition of his long-standing research into a key mechanism necessary for cholesterol control.

The Hill Prize is a new award from TAMEST designed to accelerate high-risk, high-reward research ideas in Texas with significant potential for real-world impact. Funded by Lyda Hill Philanthropies, Hill Prizes are awarded in five categories – Medicine, Engineering, Biological Sciences, Physical Sciences, and Technology – providing $500,000 to each recipient as seed funding to advance groundbreaking science and highlight Texas as a premier destination for world-class research. The prizes were announced Feb. 5 on the opening day of the TAMEST 2024 Annual Conference: Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning at the AT&T Hotel and Conference Center in Austin.

“It’s an honor to be recognized by Lyda Hill Philanthropies and TAMEST with this elite group of researchers making advances in so many different fields. These funds will help advance our work to better understand how cholesterol is produced,” said Dr. DeBose-Boyd, who holds the Beatrice and Miguel Elias Distinguished Chair in Biomedical Science at UTSW.

Dr. DeBose-Boyd’s research 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. Understanding how statins lower LDL levels was based on the Nobel Prize-winning research of UT Southwestern scientists Michael S. Brown, M.D., Professor of Molecular Genetics, and Joseph L. Goldstein, M.D., Chair and Professor of Molecular Genetics.

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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. Dr. DeBose-Boyd’s research aims to understand the mechanisms for this compensatory increase in HMG-CoA reductase, which could provide a foundation to develop novel therapies that enhance the therapeutic effectiveness of statins.

“Hundreds of millions of patients worldwide take statins to protect their heart health. Dr. DeBose-Boyd’s research could eventually lead to drugs that work significantly better to achieve this goal,” said W. P. Andrew Lee, M.D., Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs, Provost, and Dean of UT Southwestern Medical School.

Dr. DeBose-Boyd, who was elected to the National Academy of Sciences in 2023, joined UT Southwestern in the laboratory of Drs. Brown and Goldstein as a fellow of the Jane Coffin Childs Memorial Fund for Medical Research. He joined the UTSW faculty in 2003, 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, Dr. DeBose-Boyd 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.

Founded in 2004, TAMEST brings together the state’s brightest minds in medicine, engineering, science, and technology to foster collaboration and advance research, innovation, and business in Texas. With more than 335 members, eight Nobel Laureates, and 22 member institutions, TAMEST is composed of Texas-based members of the three National Academies (National Academy of Medicine, National Academy of Engineering, and National Academy of Sciences) and other honorific organizations.

“Researchers at UT Southwestern and across Texas are pursuing ideas with the potential for global impact,” said Lyda Hill, entrepreneur and founder of Lyda Hill Philanthropies. “Through its critical work, TAMEST brings together many of our state’s leading innovators, and it is exciting to see the significant contributions of Dr. DeBose-Boyd and all of this year’s recipients.”

TAMEST President Brendan Lee, M.D., Ph.D., Baylor College of Medicine, said: “We are thrilled to announce this year’s recipients of our Hill Prizes and to support these top researchers in our state as we watch them change the world. These prizes will accelerate their groundbreaking contributions and put them in a stronger position to receive more research funding in large-scale grants and collaborations. We are proud to advance these exceptional innovators and ideas and highlight the most exciting research in the state thanks to the vision and support of Lyda Hill.”

Drs. Brown and Goldstein are Regental Professors at UTSW. Dr. Brown is Director of the Erik Jonsson Center for Research in Molecular Genetics and Human Disease. Dr. Brown holds the W.A. (Monty) Moncrief Distinguished Chair in Cholesterol and Arteriosclerosis Research, and the Paul J. Thomas Chair in Medicine. Dr. Goldstein holds the Julie and Louis A. Beecherl, Jr. Distinguished Chair in Biomedical Research, and the Paul J. Thomas Chair in Medicine.

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 members have received six Nobel Prizes and include 26 members of the National Academy of Sciences, 21 members of the National Academy of Medicine, and 13 Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigators. The full-time faculty of more than 3,100 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 120,000 hospitalized patients, more than 360,000 emergency room cases, and oversee nearly 5 million outpatient visits a year.