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Molecular Toxicology leadership transitions

BY: BILL SNYDER

11/17/2011 - Internationally known toxicologist F. Peter (Fred) Guengerich, Ph.D., is stepping down as director of the Vanderbilt University Center in Molecular Toxicology, a position he has held for 30 years.

Effective this month, Michael Aschner, Ph.D., became the new principal investigator (PI) of the center’s P30 core grant and the T32 training grant in Environmental Toxicology.

Fred Guengerich, Ph.D.

Fred Guengerich, Ph.D.

Michael Aschner, Ph.D.

Michael Aschner, Ph.D.

Both grants have been supported by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS), part of the National Institutes of Health, since 1967 and 1971, respectively.

Aschner, a center investigator since 2004, will lead the activities of these grants as director of the Center in Molecular Toxicology.

This is an internationally known powerhouse of scientific inquiry and achievement with essential roles linked to the Medical Center’s widely acclaimed Mass Spectrometry Research Center, the Vanderbilt Institute of Chemical Biology, the Vanderbilt Center for Structural Biology, and the Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center.

Guengerich, the Harry Pearson Broquist Professor of Biochemistry and interim chair of the Department of Biochemistry, is an influential researcher in his own right. His work has contributed greatly to understanding the mechanisms of cancer development, and he is one of the world’s most highly cited researchers in the fields of biochemistry and pharmacology.

He also is the longest serving director of an NIEHS core center, and the longest serving principal investigator (PI) of an NIEHS P30 core grant or T32 training grant in the history of these programs. Originally funded by NIEHS as one of the nation’s first toxicology programs in 1967, the Vanderbilt center was awarded its training grant in 1975.

In recent years, the center’s NIEHS-supported programs and initiatives have expanded to include:

• An Advanced Research Cooperation in Environmental Health (ARCH) grant to support joint research with Nashville’s Meharry Medical College;

• A Patient-Oriented Career Development Program led by Nancy Brown, M.D., chair of the Department of Medicine, which provides support for environmental health science scholars; and

• A summer research and training program in environmental health sciences for medical students led by Guengerich.

Aschner, an authority on neurotoxicity caused by exposure to manganese and other metals, serves as co-PI of the ARCH grant and as PI of another center initiative, the Manganese Health Research Program, funded by the Department of Defense.

Initiatives under the development but not yet funded include a proposed NIEHS Superfund Basic Research Program focusing on mechanisms of susceptibility to mercury toxicity, and a program to study mechanisms of drug-induced cellular toxicity.

Aschner is the Gray E.B. Stahlman Professor of Neuroscience, professor of Pediatrics and Pharmacology and director of the Division of Pediatric Clinical Pharmacology and Toxicology

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