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Santosh D’Mello joins SMU to chair Biology Department

Research aimed at developing strategies to prevent, treat, or cure degenerative diseases of the brain

March 31, 2014

DALLAS (SMU) – Santosh D’Mello, a respected scientist whose research is centered on understanding the molecular mechanisms regulating neurodegeneration, is joining SMU as professor and chair of the Department of Biological Sciences in Dedman College of Humanities and Sciences.

Santosh D’MelloD’Mello joins the faculty Tuesday, April 1, from the University of Texas at Dallas, where he has been a professor in the Department of Molecular & Cell Biology. The long-term goal for his research is to develop strategies to prevent, treat, or cure degenerative diseases of the brain, and he joins SMU with four members of his research staff.

D’Mello is a longtime partner in research with SMU Professor of Chemistry Edward Biehl. In December 2010, D’Mello and Biehl published in The Journal of Neuroscience Research their discovery of a family of small molecules that shows promise in protecting brain cells against nerve-degenerative diseases such as Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s and Huntington’s.

“Professor D'Mello brings broad experience and an excellent record as a researcher and teacher to SMU,” said Dedman College Dean Bill Tsutsui.  “His focus on building meaningful collaborations and his ambitious vision for the future of the Department of Biological Sciences impressed all of us on campus.”

D’Mello received his Ph.D. in biology from the University of Pittsburgh in 1989 and joined the faculty at UTD in 1998. Funding for his research has included support from the National Institutes of Health, the U.S. Department of Defense, the National Science Foundation and the Whitehall Foundation.

“Neurodegenerative diseases, which include Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, ALS, and Huntington’s disease, are characterized by the slow but relentless loss of brain cells,” D’Mello said.  “There are no effective drugs or other therapeutic approaches to treat or prevent these progressive and fatal diseases. The goal of my lab is to understand neurodegeneration at the molecular level so that effective therapies can be developed.”

D’Mello said he was drawn to SMU because of the University’s strengths in several areas of the arts, humanities, and sciences. “I was particularly attracted by the collegial and talented faculty in the biology department, their keen interest in solving important biological problems, and their strong commitment to the teaching and training of students,” D’Mello said. 

“I am honored to be named Chair of the Department of Biological Sciences and am very excited about the opportunity,” D’Mello said.  “I look forward to working with the faculty, staff and students to build a strong multidisciplinary and collaborative research department with cutting-edge research performed by bright, talented, and motivated undergraduates, graduate students, and postdoctoral fellows.”

Research staff members joining SMU with D’Mello are Lulu Wang, research project manager, who received her M.D.  from Dalian Medical University, Dalian, China; and research associates Jade Franklin, who received her  Ph.D. in pharmacology and toxicology from the University of Kansas; Dharmendra Sharma, who received a Ph.D. in zoology and molecular endocrinology from Banaras Hindu University, Varanasi, India; and Jordan Norwood, who received her bachelor of science degree in biochemistry from the University of Texas at Dallas.

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