UMASS MEDICAL SCHOOL CELL BIOLOGIST NAMED KEITH PORTER FELLOW

August 20, 2003

WORCESTER, Mass. -- Gregory J. Pazour, PhD, a cell biologist and assistant professor of molecular medicine at the University of Massachusetts Medical School, has been named a Keith R. Porter Fellow.  Established in 1999 and funded by the Keith R. Porter Endowment for Cell Biology, the annual fellowship supports educational outreach in cell biology and recognizes just two outstanding scientists in the early stages of their independent careers.

Dr. Pazour, whose work focuses on the function of cilia in mammals, was selected for the Fellowship by board of Porter Endowment on the basis of his scientific merit.  Pazour’s work on kidney cilia has provided critical insight into the relationship between cilia and polycystic kidney disease (PKD).  Published in the October 30, 2000 issue of the Journal of Cell Biology, Pazour’s paper showed that PKD could be caused by defects in the assembly of cilia.  This was the first demonstration that kidney cilia had a function.  Since the initial observation, the work has been expanded to show that cilia play an important role in adult onset PKD in humans, a particularly devastating disease affecting 12.5 million people worldwide.   

Another paper published in the Journal of Cell Biology in April 2002, written by Pazour and UMMS colleagues, indicated that this ciliary assembly defect also affects development of sensory cilia such as the rod and cone outer segments in the eye.  In this work, Pazour and colleagues linked ciliary assembly defects to retinal degeneration and blindness.

In addition to the Porter Fellowship, Pazour was also recently named the 2002-2003 Worcester Foundation for Biomedical Research Scholar by the Worcester Foundation Board of Trustees for which he will receive a two-year, $100,000 award.  In 2000, he was recognized by the editorial board of Molecular Biology of the Cell, the official journal of the ASCB, with its annual “Paper of the Year” Award for work on understanding the basis of ciliary motility.

The Keith R. Porter Endowment for Cell Biology was founded in 1981 by former students of Dr. Porter’s who wished to recognize his unique contributions to both the field of cell biology and to the training and careers of many young scientists.  Porter, who died in 1997, spent more than half a century in science and is considered by many to be the father of the field of cell biology.  The Endowment promotes communication and education in the field and supports the Fellowship by funding $7,500 for the fellow to organize an educational activity related to cell biology, such as a focused meeting with a guest speaker, and $1,000 to visit and lecture at an undergraduate institution to promote cell biology. As an undergraduate himself, Pazour enjoyed working in a research lab where he learned firsthand the opportunities available through science.

“For undergraduates, it can be hard to really understand how biological research happens,” says Pazour.  “An academic laboratory is very different from a research laboratory, where experiments can take years, not the few hours you have to neatly wrap things up in class time.” The Fellowship begins formally in December at the ASCB annual meeting, the world’s largest and most influential annual meeting in the field of cell biology.

The University of Massachusetts Medical School, one of the fastest growing academic health centers in the country, has built a reputation as a world-class research institution, consistently producing noteworthy advances in clinical and basic research.  The Medical School attracts more than $143 million in research funding annually, 80 percent of which comes from federal funding sources.  Research funding enables UMMS scientists to explore human disease from the molecular level to large-scale clinical trials.  Basic and clinical research leads to new approaches for diagnosis, treatment and prevention of disease. Visit www.umassmed.edu for additional information.

Contact: Alison Duffy, 508-856-2000