Dr. Timothy Hla, Center for Vascular Biology, Weill Medical College, Cornell University, USA
Dr. Timothy Hla was educated in Burma where he attended the Institute of Medicine-1 at the Rangoon University. He then studied with Martyn Bailey at the George Washington University, Washington, D.C. and received his Ph.D. degree in Biochemistry. Subsequently, he obtained his postdoctoral training in vascular biology with Thomas Maciag at the American Red Cross Holland Laboratories in Rockville, Maryland, where he was later appointed to staff scientist. At this time period, he cloned the human cyclooxygenase-2 (COX-2) enzyme and the orphan receptor EDG-1, which he later showed was the prototypical sphingosine 1-phosphate (S1P) receptor. Dr. Hla moved to the University of Connecticut School of Medicine where he was eventually appointed as Professor of Cell Biology and the founding Director of the Center for Vascular Biology. In 2009, he moved to Weill Cornell Medical College.
Dr. Hla’s laboratory has contributed to two areas of bioactive lipid signaling, namely, the S1P biology and the COX-2 pathway. His laboratory cloned and de-orphaned the first S1P receptor, defined the signaling properties of the S1P receptors, elucidated the biological actions of S1P and helped define the mechanism of action of the first S1P receptor modulator FTY720 which was recently approved as an orally-available therapeutic in multiple sclerosis. His work has contributed to our understanding of how the bioactive lipid S1P regulates physiological and pathological processes and helped launch the S1P receptor modulators as novel human therapeutics. In addition, his lab molecular defined the mRNA and the gene for COX-2, described mechanisms of regulation of COX-2 expression, showed overexpression of COX-2 in human diseases of rheumatoid arthritis and cancer, defined the causal role of COX-2 in pathological angiogenesis and cancer and elucidated the mechanisms by which COX-2 protects the vasculature. This work has increased our understanding of the COX-2 pathway in physiology and pathology. Recently, his lab is working on the post-transcriptional gene regulatory mechanisms by focusing on RNA binding proteins such as HuR (Elavl1).
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