COVID-19 Update: Information and resources can be found here.

Another first

UT Southwestern’s first Allen Distinguished Investigator

Dr. Michael Rosen
Dr. Michael Rosen

Biophysicist Dr. Michael Rosen – whose research is at the forefront of work revealing the fundamental process of protein phase transitions within the cell – has been named UT Southwestern’s first Allen Distinguished Investigator.

The Allen Distinguished Investigators program supports early stage research with the potential to reinvent entire fields. Each investigator receives $1.5 million over three years. The awards are part of The Paul G. Allen Frontiers Group, a division of the Allen Institute founded by the late philanthropist Paul G. Allen.

Dr. Rosen, UT Southwestern’s Chair of Biophysics and a Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigator, will lead a project studying the physical behavior of the nucleus, the cell’s DNA-storage compartment. Recent research has found that, much like the separation of oil and vinegar in salad dressing, regions of the nucleus separate into unmixable droplets, also known as biomolecular condensates. His project will probe how condensates form, what they look like in three dimensions, and how defects in these mysterious droplets contribute to a rare type of cancer.

Dr. Rosen holds the Mar Nell and F. Andrew Bell Distinguished Chair in Biochemistry. His lab uses biophysical techniques to understand the formation, regulation, and functions of biomolecular condensates – cellular compartments that concentrate diverse but specific groups of molecules without the presence of a surrounding membrane.

To read more and to view three videos about Dr. Rosen’s international experiment in collaboration to accelerate this line of research, see our earlier story “To Woods Hole and Beyond” in the June 2018 issue of In Pursuit.

Morrison elected to National Academy of Medicine

Dr. Sean Morrison
Dr. Sean Morrison

UT Southwestern Professor Dr. Sean Morrison, Director of the Children’s Medical Center Research Institute at UT Southwestern (CRI), has been elected to the National Academy of Medicine (NAM), one of the highest honors in the fields of health and medicine. His election brings the number of current UT Southwestern faculty members inducted into the organization to 17.

The NAM – formerly known as the Institute of Medicine – recognizes individuals who have demonstrated outstanding professional achievement and a commitment to service. Along with the National Academy of Sciences and the National Academy of Engineering, the NAM advises the nation and the international community on critical issues in health, medicine, and related policy.

Dr. Morrison, who holds the Kathryne and Gene Bishop Distinguished Chair in Pediatric Research at Children’s Research Institute at UT Southwestern and the Mary McDermott Cook Chair in Pediatric Genetics, identified a series of genes required for stem cell self-renewal, which is necessary for stem cells to persist throughout life and regenerate tissues after injury. His research showed that stem cell self-renewal mechanisms change over time to match the varying growth and regeneration demands of tissues during development and aging.

Dr. Morrison, an Investigator in the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, served as President of the International Society for Stem Cell Research in 2015-2016. At UT Southwestern, he is also a Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas Scholar in Cancer Research and member of the Harold C. Simmons Comprehensive Cancer Center.

Scientists honored as rising stars in Texas research

Dr. Ralph DeBerardinis
Dr. Ralph DeBerardinis and Dr. Julie Pfeiffer

Two UT Southwestern faculty members are among those recognized with 2019 Edith and Peter O’Donnell Awards from The Academy of Medicine, Engineering and Science of Texas (TAMEST).

Dr. Ralph DeBerardinis, Professor at the Children’s Medical Center Research Institute at UT Southwestern (CRI) and Chief of the Division of Pediatric Genetics and Metabolism at UT Southwestern, and Dr. Julie Pfeiffer, Professor of Microbiology at UT Southwestern, received their awards Jan. 15 at TAMEST’s annual meeting near Austin, Texas.

The O’Donnell Awards – honoring four researchers statewide this year – recognize outstanding achievements by Texas early career investigators in science, medicine, engineering, and technology innovation. Each award consists of a $25,000 honorarium, a citation, a trophy, and an invitation to speak at the conference.

The 2019 TAMEST O’Donnell Award in Medicine honors Dr. DeBerardinis for his studies on the role of altered metabolism in cancer and in childhood conditions caused by mutations in genes encoding metabolic enzymes. Dr. DeBerardinis, an attending physician at Children’s Health, is also a Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigator and Director of the Genetic and Metabolic Disease Program at CRI. Dr. DeBerardinis is holder of the Joel B. Steinberg, M.D. Chair in Pediatrics and a Sowell Family Scholar in Medical Research.

The 2019 TAMEST O’Donnell Award in Science honors Dr. Pfeiffer, a virologist, for work that has deepened understanding of the interplay between the gut’s microbiome – the viruses and bacteria that live in the intestines – and disease. Specifically, she found that some viruses use the body’s natural gut bacteria to replicate and become more infectious. Dr. Pfeiffer is holder of the Kern and Marnie Wildenthal President’s Research Council Professorship in Medical Science. Learn more about her work.

Faculty awarded prestigious NIH research awards

Dr. Kendra Frederick
Dr. Kendra Frederick and Dr. Prashant Mishra

Two UT Southwestern faculty members have been awarded prestigious National Institutes of Health (NIH) Director’s New Innovator Awards for high-risk, high-reward research.

Dr. Kendra Frederick, Assistant Professor of Biophysics, and Dr. Prashant Mishra, Assistant Professor of Pediatrics and in the Children’s Medical Center Research Institute at UT Southwestern (CRI), will each receive $1.5 million as award recipients. Established in 2007, the NIH program supports unusually innovative research by early career investigators.

Dr. Frederick uses nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) spectroscopy to study protein structure to better understand diseases like Alzheimer’s. Dr. Mishra develops mouse models to study mutations in mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) – found in about 1 in 5,000 people – in hopes of discovering new treatments for diseases that currently have limited therapeutic options.

Dr. Frederick joined UT Southwestern in the Endowed Scholars Class of 2015-2019 as a Lupe Murchison Foundation Scholar in Medical Research following postdoctoral work at the Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research in Cambridge, Massachusetts. She earned her Ph.D. in biochemistry and molecular biophysics from the University of Pennsylvania.

Dr. Mishra received his undergraduate degree in biochemical sciences from Harvard University before earning an M.D. and a Ph.D. in biophysics from UT Southwestern’s dual-degree Medical Scientist Training Program. He joined the UTSW faculty in 2015.

The New Innovator Awards are among four grant programs for researchers at every career stage that form the NIH Director’s High-Risk, High-Reward series of awards that are supported by the NIH Common Fund.