August 4, 2006

Bone biology center formed

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Gregory Mundy, M.D., has been named to direct the newly formed Vanderbilt Center in Bone Biology.
Photo by Susan Urmy

Bone biology center formed

Vanderbilt University Medical Center has dramatically strengthened its ability to investigate and develop new treatments for bone diseases.

Gregory Mundy, M.D., an internationally renowned investigator in bone biology, has joined VUMC to direct the newly formed Vanderbilt Center in Bone Biology, which will focus on the major diseases of the bone — such as osteoporosis, cancer metastasis and fracture repair — and on identifying new drugs to treat them.

Mundy, who has also been named the first John A. Oates Chair in Translational Medicine, brings to Vanderbilt a proven record of research excellence; for the past 25 years he has been in the top 2 percent of all National Institutes of Health grantees in terms of extramural funding.

He comes to Vanderbilt from the University of Texas Health Science Center, San Antonio, where he was professor of Cellular and Structural Biology, assistant dean for Clinical Research, director of the General Clinical Research Center and interim director of the San Antonio Cancer Institute.

“Dr. Mundy is the perfect candidate to fill the John Oates Chair in Translational Research,” said Jeffrey Balser, M.D., Ph.D., associate vice chancellor for Research. “A major goal of our research enterprise strategic plan is therapeutic discovery and translation. Greg's outstanding experience in bone biology and therapeutic discovery is a huge step toward realizing that goal.”

“Greg's arrival at Vanderbilt is one of those important transforming events,” said Eric Neilson, M.D., Morgan Professor and chairman of the Department of Medicine. “His research focus on bone metabolism is something we have sorely needed for our research enterprise to become more well-rounded and interactive. His work touches on many important facets of human biology that will help improve the lives of patients.”

“We are indeed excited to have someone of the stature of Greg Mundy joining the institution and the division,” said Jason Morrow, M.D., director of the Division of Clinical Pharmacology.

“He is a world leader in bone biology and pharmacology and will add a new and exciting research dimension to our medical center. In addition, he is bringing a number of talented scientists with him who will help him create a large and vibrant program in the bone sciences.”

Mundy said he saw a “tremendous opportunity” at Vanderbilt for his team of investigators.

“My vision for this new center is to have a group of people here who are interested in all of the common bone diseases, from the very basic to the clinical aspects, so that Vanderbilt is known internationally as a center for people to be trained in studying bone disease,” Mundy said. “I think we can get there relatively quickly.”

“Greg is a spectacular addition to the medical center, and to the Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center, because he brings expertise in the bone biology field that we have never really had at this institution,” said Raymond DuBois Jr., M.D., Ph.D., director of the VICC.

“I have known him since my days as a medical student in the University of Texas system and have always had the greatest amount of admiration for his science and his personal qualities.”

Mundy expressed excitement at the potential for collaboration with VUMC investigators in Orthopaedics, Cancer Biology, Dermatology, the Vanderbilt Institute of Chemical Biology and the Proteomics Laboratory.

“I'm very interested in early-stage drug discovery and identifying drugs which will stimulate bone growth or inhibit cancer metastasis to bone,” Mundy said.

His team has made inroads in these areas. In the late 1980s, in cooperation with the University of Texas, Mundy founded a company called Osteoscreen, with the goal of looking for drugs that stimulate bone growth.

The company's success in identifying lead compounds that may improve fracture healing and promote hair growth has led to the founding of two additional biotechnology companies.

Mundy, a native of Australia, traces his interest in bone biology to his days as a medical resident at the University of Tasmania, where he cared for many patients with myeloma.

“Myeloma (a cancer of the bone marrow) is a disease that really destroys bones; it's the cause of one of the worst bone diseases that I know of,” Mundy said.

He began studying the basic science of bone biology during a fellowship at the University of Rochester, continued his research at the University of Connecticut, and then accepted a position as chief of Endocrinology at the University of Texas in 1980.

The training program Mundy directed at the University of Texas has trained 140 postdoctoral fellows in bone and mineral metabolism. He has published more than 540 original articles, reviews and book chapters, and is an inventor on 34 issued patents.

He is currently on the board of directors of the National Osteoporosis Foundation, the International Myeloma Foundation, and the International Bone & Mineral Society.

Mundy is honored to be the first holder of the John A. Oates Chair in Translational Medicine, he said.

“It has always been important to me that my research be relevant to patients – to real problems that people have.”

In addition to his primary appointment as professor of Medicine in the Division of Clinical Pharmacology, Mundy holds appointments in Pharmacology, Orthopaedics, and Cancer Biology.

Joining Mundy in the new Center in Bone Biology are Florent Elefteriou, Ph.D., assistant professor of Medicine, Xiangli Yang, Ph.D., assistant professor of Medicine, Claire Edwards, Ph.D., research assistant professor of Cancer Biology, Ming Zhao, M.D., Ph.D., research assistant professor of Medicine, Jeff Nyman, Ph.D., research instructor in Medicine, postdoctoral fellows James Edwards, D.Phil., and Julie Sterling, Ph.D., and research assistants Steve Munoz and Gabriel Sterling.