CINCINNATI—Jeffery Molkentin, PhD, a scientist and professor at the 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 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 cardiovascular biology at Cincinnati Children’s and the department of pediatrics at UC, 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,” says Jack Dixon, PhD, vice president and chief scientific officer at HHMI. “This infusion of fresh scientific talent allows us to refresh our commitment to original and creative biomedical research.”
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 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 the HHMI award will allow him to expand his research in a more exploratory way.
“HHMI encourages innovative research,” he says. “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.
Molkentin is the fourth HHMI investigator ever appointed in Ohio, the third at UC and first to be named while at Cincinnati Children’s.
The non-profit medical research organization—founded in 1953 by aviator-industrialist Howard Hughes—has invested more than $8.3 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.
Molkentin joined UC and Cincinnati Children’s 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.