March 8, 2012

York named chair of Department of Biochemistry

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John York, Ph.D., and Sally York, M.D., Ph.D., are coming to Vanderbilt from Duke University Medical Center.

York named chair of Department of Biochemistry

John York, Ph.D., Investigator, Howard Hughes Medical Institute, and the Cancer Biology Professor of Pharmacology and Biochemistry at Duke University Medical Center, has been named the new chair of the Vanderbilt Department of Biochemistry.

York will join Vanderbilt this summer as the Natalie Overall Warren Professor of Biochemistry.

York succeeds F. Peter (Fred) Guengerich, Ph.D., the Harry Pearson Broquist Professor of Biochemistry, who has served as the department’s interim chair since July 2010. Guengerich assumed this role when longtime chair Michael Waterman, Ph.D., stepped down after serving as the department’s chair for 18 years.

York’s research has focused on elucidating cellular communication networks required for cellular survival and organismal development; utilizing a discovery-based multidisciplinary research approach with the goal of yielding improved therapeutics and target identification of human disease states; and investigating the action of lithium’s role in the treatment of mental illness.

“Dr. York is an outstanding selection to lead our Department of Biochemistry. We look to John to further advance the department’s already vibrant and distinguished reputation for cutting-edge discovery and training future leaders in science,” said Jeff Balser, M.D., Ph.D., vice chancellor for Health Affairs and dean of the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine.

“Dr. Wente and I wish to thank Dr. Marnett and the other members of the search committee for their outstanding work to identify a world leader to fulfill a role so integral to the Medical Center’s future.”

York joined the faculty of Duke in 1996 and has achieved an impressive list of professional accomplishments.

Named an Investigator with the Howard Hughes Medical Institute in 2000, York is a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) and has also been the recipient of the Williams Prize from Duke University for Innovations in Basic Science Research, the American Society of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology-Schering Plough Scientific Achievement Award and a Career Award from the Burroughs Wellcome Fund.

He is the author of more than 60 peer-reviewed publications, is associate editor of Molecular Biology of the Cell and has served as an editorial board member of several other scientific journals.

“John York brings an exciting vision to Vanderbilt,” said Susan Wente, Ph.D., associate vice chancellor for Research and senior associate dean for Biomedical Sciences. “He clearly sees the importance of biochemistry and discovery research as foundations for our academic environment.”

The Biochemistry chair search committee was led by Lawrence Marnett, Ph.D., the Mary Geddes Stahlman Professor of Cancer Research, professor of Biochemistry, Chemistry, Pharmacology and director of the Vanderbilt Institute of Chemical Biology.

Other members of this search committee include: James Crowe, M.D., Ingram Professor of Cancer Research; Ellen Fanning, Ph.D., Stevenson Professor of Biological Sciences; Heidi Hamm, Ph.D., Earl W. Sutherland Jr. Professor in Pharmacology and chair of the department; David Harrison, M.D., director of the Division of Clinical Pharmacology; D. Borden Lacy, Ph.D., assistant professor of Pathology, Microbiology & Immunology; Hassane Mchaourab, Ph.D., professor of Molecular Physiology & Biophysics; and Ned Porter, Ph.D., Stevenson Professor of Chemistry.

“John is a terrific scientist and a high quality person. He's got the perfect blend of experience and vision to lead a great Biochemistry Department into the future,” said Marnett.

York's wife, Sally York, M.D., Ph.D., a physician-scientist at Duke who specializes clinically in lung cancer, will join the faculty in the Department of Medicine’s Division of Hematology and Oncology. Her laboratory research has focused on the recognition and processing of chemotherapy-induced DNA damage by DNA mismatch repair, a genomic stability pathway defective in many sporadic and familial tumors.

“Sally has a passion for translational science, and we look forward to her making an impact at Vanderbilt,” said William Pao, M.D., Ph.D., the Ingram Associate Professor of Cancer Research and director of the Division of Hematology and Oncology.

Sally York earned her medical degree from the Washington University School of Medicine and a doctorate degree in Molecular and Cellular Biology from Washington University. John York received a Bachelor of Science in Biochemistry from the University of Iowa and a doctorate in Molecular Cell Biology and Biochemistry from Washington University.

“I am very excited by the fantastic opportunity of leading the Department of Biochemistry at Vanderbilt University,” York said. “Together with the outstanding faculty members of the department, institutes and centers, it will be a pleasure to recruit and mentor the next generation of scientists that will add to the Institution’s rich history.

“I have been extremely impressed by the collaborative environment that Vanderbilt has developed across the campus, enabling discoveries from the bench to bedside. I am energized by challenges and look forward to being part of a team alongside Vice Chancellor Balser, Dean Wente, and all of the institutional leaders,” York said.