Helen Hobbs is an investigator of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute and a professor of Internal Medicine and Molecular Genetics at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center. Additionally, she is the director of the Dallas Heart Study, a longitudinal, multiethnic population-based study of over 6,000 adults that aims to identify genetic, protein, and imaging biomarkers for early detection of cardiovascular disease as well as social, behavioral, and environmental factors that contribute to cardiovascular disease risk. By studying outliers in this population, Dr. Hobbs identified a genetic defect in PCSK9 that is responsible for low plasma LDL levels. In an interview with JCI Editor-at-Large Ushma Neill, Dr. Hobbs discusses her early scientific training at Parkland Memorial Hospital in Dallas under the direction of Donald Seldin, who guided her to scientific bench training. She also discusses the initiation of the Dallas Heart Study and the development of a therapeutic inhibitor of PCSK9 for lowering LDL.
Editor-at-Large Ushma Neill interviews Rudolf Jaenisch of MIT’s Whitehead Institute. Dr. Jaenisch created the first transgenic mice and conducted the first experiment demonstrating that therapeutic cloning could correct a genetic defect. Additionally, Jaenisch has been at the forefront of research on induced pluripotent stem cells and has shown that these cells can correct sickle cell anemia and Parkinson disease in rodents. In this interview, Jaenisch discusses his work as a postdoctoral fellow in Arnold Levine’s lab studying DNA replication with the tumor virus SV40, which led to his collaboration with developmental geneticist Beatrice Mintz. Additionally, Jaenisch discusses adoption of new methods and technologies to address interesting questions in genetics as well as the application of these technologies to humans.
Dr. Stuart Kornfeld is the David C. and Betty Farrell Distinguished Professor of Medicine at Washington University in St. Louis. He is best known for his work elucidating the processes governing lysosome biogenesis. His research continues to uncover roles for oligosaccharide biosynthesis, processing, and maturation in mediating proper folding and transport of proteins. In an interview with JCI Editor-at-Large Ushma Neill, Kornfeld discusses how his first biochemistry course, taught by Carl and Gerty Cori, and his work as a postdoctoral researcher in Luis Glaser’s lab led to his interest in the role of sugar moieties in cellular physiology. Kornfeld also discusses his early work with postdoctoral fellows Ira Tabas and Ajit Varki and graduate student Marc Reitman in characterizing the trafficking of lysosomal proteins. Finally, Kornfeld addresses the importance of mentors in the development of physician-scientists.
Dr. Robert Schrier is a nephrologist and Professor of Medicine at the University of Colorado School of Medicine, where he served as Chair of the Department of Medicine and Chief of the Kidney Division for more than 20 years. He is an expert in patient-oriented research on acute kidney injury, autosomal dominant polycystic kidney disease, hypertension, and diabetic nephropathy. Dr. Schrier has authored over 1,000 papers and several books and has been continuously funded by the NIH for 45 years. In an interview with JCI Editor-at-Large Ushma Neill, Schrier discusses his love of sports, his studies in Germany as a Fulbright scholar, his decision to go to medical school, and his entry into research at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center, where he became interested in kidney failure.
Craig Thompson, MD, president and CEO of Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, has made fundamental contributions to our understanding of how cells survive and replicate. His current research focuses on the role of metabolic pathways in tumorigenesis. In an interview with JCI Editor at Large Ushma Neill, Thompson discusses the evolution of his research focus. He initially studied platelet physiology while working at the Naval Blood Research Laboratory. Thompson then became a Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigator studying the processes that regulate cell death and the mechanisms that shape lymphocyte development and immune homeostasis. After moving to the University of Pennsylvania, Thompson began to focus on the role of cellular metabolism in proliferation and survival when he found that elimination of apoptosis in mice did not completely regulate cellular survival. These processes have since been shown to play a critical role in cancer development and progression.