Molecular Biologist at UC and Cincinnati Children’s Receives Prestigious Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigator Designation

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Jeffery D. Molkentin, PhD, a scientist and professor at the University of Cincinnati (UC) College of Medicine and Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center has been named one of 56 new Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) Investigators.

This will place Dr. Molkentin among an elite group of the nation’s most promising scientists who are challenged to extend the boundaries of science by pursuing bold and creative research. A researcher in the division of molecular and cardiovascular biology at Cincinnati Children’s and the department of pediatrics at UC, Dr. Molkentin was among 1,070 scientists who applied for the appointment. In making its selections, HHMI sought outstanding scientists studying biomedical problems in a variety of disciplines.

“We look for scientists who have demonstrated originality and productivity in biomedical research and show exceptional potential for future contributions,” said Jack E. Dixon, Ph.D., vice president and chief scientific officer at HHMI. “This infusion of fresh scientific talent allows us refresh our commitment to original and creative biomedical research.”

Dr. Molkentin’s research has advanced the understanding of molecular events behind heart disease and muscular dystrophy. His team studies the signaling mechanisms that control cell growth, differentiation and death.

One study from Dr. Molkentin’s laboratory, published this spring in the science journal Nature Medicine, identified a possible a new treatment for muscular dystrophy. The research showed an investigational antiviral drug undergoing human trials in Europe for Hepatitis C infections may also have potential in reducing muscle cell damage in muscular dystrophy patients.

Molkentin says this award will allow him to expand his research in a more exploratory way.

“HHMI encourages innovative research,” he said. “This award is typically given to individuals from institutions that have strong and pioneering programs. This shows the success of both UC and Cincinnati Children’s. It is an example of how the tie between these two institutions can strengthen the impact of our research on a local and national scale.”

The HHMI provides long-term, flexible funding to about 300 Hughes scientists across the nation, allowing researchers to pursue their scientific interests no matter where they lead.

Dr. Molkentin is the fourth HHMI investigator ever in Ohio, the third at UC and first at Cincinnati Children’s.

The non-profit medical research organization – founded in 1953 by aviator-industrialist Howard Hughes – has invested more than $9 billion in the last 20 years to support, train and educate the nation’s most creative and promising scientists. The institute is based in Chevy Chase, Md., just outside Washington, D.C.

Once selected, investigators continue to be based at their host institutions, but become HHMI employees and derive their salaries and benefits from the institute. The collaboration agreement also provides for payment to the host institution for a researcher's laboratory space. Investigators retain their faculty positions and continue to participate in teaching and other professional activities at their university or research institute.

Dr. Molkentin joined Cincinnati Children’s and UC in September 1997 after completion of his post-doctoral fellowship at the University of Texas Southwestern. He received his bachelor’s degree at Marquette University and his doctoral degree at the Medical College of Wisconsin, both in Milwaukee. He currently serves on the editorial boards of the Journal of Molecular and Cellular Cardiology, Physiological Reviews and The Journal of Biological Chemistry.

Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center, one of the leading pediatric research institutions in the nation, is dedicated to changing the outcome for children throughout the world. Cincinnati Children's ranks second among all pediatric institutions in the United States in grants from the National Institutes of Health. It has an established tradition of research excellence, with discoveries including the Sabin oral polio vaccine, the surfactant preparation that saves the lives of thousands of premature infants each year, and a rotavirus vaccine that saves the lives of hundreds of thousands of infants around the world each year. Current strategic directions include the translation of basic laboratory research into the development of novel therapeutics for the treatment of disease, and furthering the development of personalized and predictive medicine.

Contact Information

Nick Miller, 513-803-6035, nicholas.miller@cchmc.org; Katie Pence, 513-558-4561, katie.pence@uc.edu