DALLAS Oct. 11, 2007 Dr. Beth Levine, professor of internal medicine and microbiology and chief of the division of infectious diseases at UT Southwestern Medical Center, was named a Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) investigator today.
Dr. Levine is one of 15 new investigators named in a national competition by the institute, a philanthropic organization that promotes biomedical research. Her appointment brings the number of HHMI investigators who are faculty members at UT Southwestern to 10.
Dr. Levine, holder of the Jay P. Sanford Professorship in Infectious Diseases, is a renowned specialist in the study of autophagy, the process by which cells devour their own unwanted or damaged parts.
Dr. Levine said she is honored to be named an investigator.
Its really exciting to be able to have this HHMI position, which will allow us to take our research findings and begin patient-oriented studies, she said.
Dr. Levines laboratory identified the first known mammalian autophagy gene. Her research has shown that defects in the gene, called beclin 1, contribute to cancer, aging, neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimers, infectious diseases and potentially to autoimmune disorders such as systemic lupus erythematosus.
The ultimate goal of her research, Dr. Levine said, is to develop new drugs that will increase beclin 1 expression and autophagy to help treat patients with diseases such as cancer, HIV and the herpes simplex virus. She said she also hopes to better understand the role autophagy plays in protecting individuals from developing cancer and viral infections.
This is an important pathway, she said. Autophagy also plays a very important role in degenerative diseases like Alzheimers and it prevents aging.
HHMI is one of the worlds largest philanthropies, with an endowment of $16.3 billion. HHMI investigators are selected from among faculties of universities and academic health c
|Contact: Kristen Holland Shear|
UT Southwestern Medical Center