Two UT Southwestern Medical Center faculty members have been recently elected by the National Academy of Sciences (NAS); this is the highest honor attainable by American scientists and was awarded to Dr. Lora Hooper and Dr. Steven Kliewer. UT Southwestern is now ranked among the most elite group of academic medical centers in the country with 23 NAS members on its faculty.
Hooper’s work is focused on determining how resident intestinal bacteria can influence the biology of their mammalian hosts. She has an appointment in the Center for the Genetics of Host Defense and she is a professor in the departments of Immunology and Microbiology.
Steven Kliewer is a renowned expert in orphan nuclear receptors and a professor in the departments of Molecular Biology and Pharmacology.
“These outstanding scientists are illuminating fundamental processes related to some of the most serious illnesses of the 21st century, and their work could lead to significant improvements in the prevention and treatment of these diseases. Both Dr. Hooper and Dr. Kliewer are exceptional scientists, inspiring teachers, and valued colleagues. They are highly deserving of this honor, which their election by their peers represents,” noted Daniel K. Podolsky who is the UT Southwestern’s president.
Kliewer, before joining the UT Southwestern faculty in 2002, managed to identify the therapeutic target for a class of drugs used to treat type 2 diabetes. Already at UT Southwestern, he demonstrated that the FGF19 hormone, secreted by the gut, can regulate the bile acid metabolism in the liver.
Eric Olson, Molecular Biology chairman at UTSW, noted: “This is wonderful and well deserved recognition of Steve Kliewer’s groundbreaking contributions to our understanding of the gene regulatory mechanisms that govern metabolism and physiology.”
Dr. Kliewer and David Mangelsdorf from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute identified a pair of new targets to address gastroenterological disorders, such as non-alcoholic fatty liver disease.
“Steve’s FGF19 finding was the missing link in the feedback loop by which bile acids regulate their own synthesis,” stated Dr. Mangelsdor. “He’s considered one of the founding members of the field of orphan nuclear receptors and has made seminal contributions with clear importance to medicine and biology.”
“I’m thrilled and honored to be elected to the NAS! I have been very fortunate to work with outstanding scientists throughout my career. I would especially like to acknowledge my colleagues, postdocs, and students here at UT Southwestern and my former colleagues at GlaxoSmithKline. They made this award possible,” said Kliewer.
“I am deeply honored and thrilled to have been elected to the National Academy of Sciences. This recognition really belongs to all of the outstanding members of my laboratory who have had the creativity and vision that has fueled our discoveries. I am also deeply grateful to UT Southwestern and to the Department of Immunology for providing me with an outstanding matrix in which to grow my research program,” said Hooper.
“We live in harmony with a huge community of microbes within our own bodies, neither allowing them to invade vital tissues nor trying to eradicate them. This balancing act has puzzled immunologists for decades. Lora has made some of the most spectacular discoveries in the field,” added Bruce Beutler, 2011 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine.
The NAS is a non-profit and private society of distinguished scholars established by Congress in 1863. Scientists are elected to the NAS by their peers because of outstanding contributions to research and science.