Department of Biology News
CPRIT grant helps UTA recruit prominent young biology researcher, expand its focus on health science research
The Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas has awarded The University of Texas at Arlington an $823,067 grant to recruit star cell biology researcher Mark Pellegrino from Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York.
Pellegrino will join the UTA College of Science as an assistant biology professor in August. He is an internationally recognized biologist whose discovery that mitochondria are an important activator of innate immunity was published in Nature in 2014. The grant will provide startup research funding for Pellegrino’s lab.
“Mark Pellegrino is positioned to become a leader among cell biologists,” said Morteza Khaledi, dean of the College of Science. “Studies of how cells respond to mitochondrial stress are of growing interest because of the implications for multiple conditions such as cancer, Parkinson’s disease and bacterial infections.”
Pellegrino said that he has many important new research projects planned at UTA.
“My long term goal is to use my knowledge of mitochondrial stress response to develop reagents with therapeutic potential,” Pellegrino said. “I am especially excited to join UTA as the University gears up to become a leader in the area of biomedical sciences.”
Pellegrino’s appointment comes as UTA is expanding its focus on research that advances health and the human condition under the Strategic Plan 2020: Bold Solutions |Global Impact. Construction is scheduled to begin this fall on a $125 million Science and Engineering Innovation and Research building with 200,000 square feet of teaching and research space that will enable enhanced activity in the health sciences.
Duane Dimos, vice president of research, expressed appreciation for the strong support from the state and the University of Texas System that is allowing UTA to expand it health research programs.
“With the state’s support, we are attracting and hiring leaders in multiple fields as we grow as a Research 1 university,” Dimos said. “We have an important role to play in the economy of North Texas and in the state’s ability to produce large numbers of degreed adults in high-demand fields, including healthcare.”
In the past year, UTA has attracted other world-renowned biologists, including the new chair of biology and biology professor Clay Clark, former head of biochemistry at North Carolina State University. Clark’s laboratory work focuses on imbalances in programmed cell death in the growth of cancers, and the potential therapeutic role of enzymes that can regulate cell death in cancer.
Jon Weidanz also recently joined the university as associate vice president for research and professor of biology. Weidanz, a seasoned entrepreneur, has 20 years of experience in biotechnology research with emphasis in immunology, immunotherapy and immunodiagnostic product development, especially related to oncology and the development of products to diagnose and treat cancer.
Clark said, “We are progressively building up our biology program with an increasing emphasis on health sciences. Dr. Pellegrino’s cancer research is a great fit for our department and we are excited that he is joining our team later this year.”
Pellegrino earned his bachelor’s of science and master’s of science degrees at McGill University in Canada and his Ph.D. from the University of Melbourne in Australia. He worked as a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Zurich in Switzerland before joining Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York as a postdoctoral associate in their cell biology program.
UTA has previously won more than $3 million in CPRIT grants to develop tools to determine where thyroid cancer is and to treat it, to improve cancer detection and for biomechanical profiling of migrating brain cancer genotypes in tightly confined space for drug screening.
Beginning operations in 2009, CPRIT has to date awarded $1.57 billion in grants to Texas researchers, institutions and organizations. CPRIT provides funding through its academic research, prevention, and product development research programs.
Programs made possible with CPRIT funding have reached all 254 counties of the state, brought more than 100 distinguished researchers to Texas, advanced scientific and clinical knowledge, and provided more than 2.8 million life-saving education, training, prevention and early detection services to Texans. Learn more at cprit.texas.gov.