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Brown named interim director of Institute of Chemical Biology

Nov. 3, 2016, 9:06 AM

H. Alex Brown, Ph.D., the Bixler-Johnson-Mayes Professor in the Department of Pharmacology, has been named interim director of the Vanderbilt Institute of Chemical Biology (VICB).

H. Alex Brown, Ph.D.
H. Alex Brown, Ph.D.

Brown succeeds Lawrence Marnett, Ph.D., University Professor of Biochemistry, Chemistry and Pharmacology and Mary Geddes Stahlman Professor of Cancer Research, who was appointed dean of Basic Sciences in the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine earlier this year.

“I am pleased to have this opportunity to build upon the successes of the VICB,” said Brown, a former associate director of the institute who also is a professor of Biochemistry and Chemistry. “Our emphasis will continue to be in the development of tool compounds, chemical probes, and discovery of new therapeutic targets and molecules. Chemical biology will play a major role empowering both basic and translational discovery at Vanderbilt,” he said.

“Alex was one of the first faculty recruited by the VICB and has been very effective as an associate director,” Marnett said. “I am especially pleased that he has agreed to serve as interim director and am confident that he will provide strong leadership for the institute.”

Marnett and Ned Porter, Ph.D., the Centennial Professor of Chemistry, emeritus, founded the VICB in 2002 to support development of educational and research programs that applied chemical technologies to address important biological problems.

With support from the Academic Venture Capital Fund and individual departments, the new center recruited 20 new faculty members, and established core laboratories in high-throughput screening and chemical synthesis. Today the institute also encompasses the Vanderbilt Antibody and Protein Resource Core and Small Molecule NMR Core

The institute provided “incubator” support for creation of the Vanderbilt Center for Neuroscience Drug Discovery and cancer drug discovery program, and today represents more than 75 scientists from across the School of Medicine and College of Arts and Science.

Brown is a leader in the field of lipidomics, the application of analytical chemistry, mass spectrometry and systems biology to lipid profiling in cells and tissues. He has helped define the critical role that the enzyme phospholipase D (PLD) plays in intracellular lipid signaling pathways involved in growth promotion and invasive cancers.

Brown earned his Ph.D. in Neurobiology and Pharmacology at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and did postdoctoral training at the University of Texas-Southwestern Medical Center. He began his independent research career at Cornell University before coming to Vanderbilt in 2002.

In 2009, he and Craig Lindsley, Ph.D., and colleagues reported the design and synthesis of the first isoform-selective PLD inhibitors. PLD has been implicated in a number of human diseases including diabetes, myocardial disease, neurodegenerative disorders, infectious diseases and cancer.

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