June 18, 2020

Cortez named to VICC research leadership role

David Cortez, PhD, has been named associate director for Basic Science Research at Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center (VICC).

David Cortez, PhD, has been named associate director for Basic Science Research at Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center (VICC).

David Cortez, PhD

Cortez, the Richard Armstrong Professor of Biochemistry, joined Vanderbilt University in 2002. He is an expert in the field of DNA damage response and repair and made seminal discoveries about the mechanisms that maintain genome integrity.

A highly accomplished and creative scientist, he has numerous studies published in Cell, Science, Nature and other high-impact journals, and he is a member of the editorial boards for Cell Reports and Molecular and Cellular Biology. His leadership roles include being a co-leader of the Genome Maintenance Research Program since its inception in 2007 at VICC and having served as director of Graduate Studies in the Department of Biochemistry at Vanderbilt University for eight years.

“David Cortez has a vast knowledge of biochemistry, molecular biology and cancer biology. In addition to his scientific expertise and breadth, he brings tremendous leadership skills and vision that will catalyze fundamental discoveries of the highest value for translation to our patients. He is a leader who mentors early career scientists, prompts colleagues to examine scientific problems from different angles and spurs collaborative endeavors. I’m delighted that he has taken on this new role,” said Jennifer Pietenpol, PhD, B.F. Byrd Jr. Professor of Oncology, Executive Vice President for Research at Vanderbilt University Medical Center and director of VICC.

“I’m excited to take on this new role in the Cancer Center,” Cortez said. “I look forward to working with Dr. Pietenpol and the other center leaders to facilitate discovery research that will alleviate cancer death and suffering.”

Cortez replaces Scott Hiebert, PhD, Professor of Biochemistry and Hortense B. Ingram Professor of Cancer Research, who has served in the role since 2008. Hiebert is a member of the National Cancer Advisory Board that provides guidance to the director of the National Cancer Institute. He will continue in his role as associate director for Shared Resources and another interim leadership role to be announced soon. He will continue to focus on the molecular mechanisms of acute leukemia and the action of tumor suppressors in his own research program.

“Scott Hiebert has done an outstanding job for the past 12 years leading Basic Science, mentoring program leaders, and playing an integral leadership role in the last three renewals of the Cancer Center Support Grant, which grants NCI designation to Vanderbilt-Ingram,” said Pietenpol, holder of the Brock Family Directorship in Career Development. “We are grateful for all his hard work and his continued dedication to the Cancer Center — he inspires all of us.”

Cortez graduated summa cum laude from the University of Illinois, Champaign-Urbana with highest honors in biology and biochemistry. He received his PhD degree in 1997 in Molecular Cancer Biology from Duke University. He did his post-doctoral training as a Jane Coffin Childs Fellow at the Baylor College of Medicine. He is an American Association for the Advancement of Science Fellow and has received several awards recognizing his scientific achievements, including the Howard Temin Award from the National Cancer Institute, the Wilson S. Stone Memorial Award and a Pew Scholar Award from the Pew Charitable Trusts.