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Litsa Kranias, PhD, is working to better understand the complex network of proteins contributing to heart function. As a professor of Pharmacology and Systems Physiology, Director of Cardiovascular Biology and Co-Director of the Cardiovascular Center of Excellence, Kranias has dedicated her career to researching cardiac illness and mentoring the next generation of researchers.
Much of Kranias’ research has focused on phospholamban (PLN), a cardiac protein that helps regulate contraction of the heart. However, Kranias and her colleagues discovered that PLN does not act alone—a complex set of proteins, including HAX-1, the heat shock protein 20 (HSP20) and protein phosphatase 1, work together to regulate PLN activity and cardiac contractility.
Kranias embraces her role as teacher and mentor, not only in her lab and her classroom, but in other opportunities as well. She’s the senior advisor of the Early Career Investigators of the American Heart Association Basic Cardiovascular Sciences and the senior faculty advisor of the Early Career Investigators of the International Society of Heart Research North America and of the World Congress. Her role as a mentor is so important that Kranias is a co-principal investigator of a training grant through the NIH. Kranias’ dedication hasn’t gone unnoticed—two years ago, she was awarded the University of Cincinnati Mentorship award.
“I think that a very important aspect of our career is training the next generation of scientists,” said Kranias. “This is probably the biggest legacy we leave behind. The research is important—it will move the field forward—but having scientists to continue that is even more important.”
Eric Olson is the founding Chair of the Department of Molecular Biology at The University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center. He also founded the Center for Regenerative Science and Medicine at UT Southwestern, which is advancing new strategies for organ regeneration. In addition, Dr. Olson directs the Wellstone Clinical Research Center for Muscular Dystrophy Research at UT Southwestern. He holds the Robert A. Welch Distinguished Chair, the Pogue Chair Distinguished Chair in Cardiac Birth Defects and the Annie and Willie Nelson Professorship in Stem Cell Research.
Dr. Olson is a member of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences, the Institute of Medicine, and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. His work has been recognized by numerous awards, including the Basic Research Prize, the Research Achievement Award and the Eugene Markwald Mentorship Award from the American Heart Association. He is among the most highly cited scientists in the world, with his work having been cited over 100,000 times in the scientific literature.
Eric Olson has trained ~120 fellows and students, many of whom now have independent positions in academia or industry. He and his trainees have discovered many of the key genes and mechanisms responsible for development of the heart and other muscles unveiling the signaling pathways responsible for pathological cardiac growth and heart failure. Olson’s discoveries at the interface of developmental biology and medicine have illuminated the fundamental principles of organ formation and have provided new concepts in the quest for cardiovascular therapeutics. His most recent work has provided a new strategy for correction of Duchenne muscular dystrophy using CRISPR gene editing.
Eric Olson has co-founded multiple biotechnology companies to design new therapies for heart muscle disease. Most recently, he founded Exonics Therapeutics together with Cure Duchenne Ventures, which is advancing gene editing as a therapy for Duchenne muscular dystrophy. Exonics was recently acquired by Vertex Pharmaceuticals. In his spare time, he plays guitar and harmonica with The Transactivators, a rock band inspired by the Texas troubadour, Willie Nelson, who created the Professorship that supports his research.