Jack E. Dixon, Ph.D., who has led the scientific programs of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) since 2007, today announced he will retire as vice president and chief scientific officer in summer 2013. Dixon will return to the University of California, San Diego to continue his longstanding research on protein tyrosine phosphatases -- biochemical “master control switches” that regulate much of the activity in living cells.
Dixon directs the Institute’s flagship HHMI Investigator Program, in which leading scientists and their staffs conduct research in HHMI laboratories across the United States. During his tenure, he has developed new scientific opportunities—such as the HHMI Early Career Scientist Program and the Hughes Collaborative Innovation Awards—that capitalize on the Institute's expertise in biomedical research.
“I have viewed Jack Dixon as an exceptional intellectual partner who helped map out the present and future scientific directions of this organization,” said HHMI President Robert Tjian. “It has been a great pleasure and privilege to work with Jack and his team to generate the new ideas that are keeping HHMI at the forefront of science today. I shall sorely miss him.”
“I’ve been very fortunate to work with some terrific people, and I think our collective efforts have benefited the scientific community as a whole.”
A member of the Institute of Medicine and the National Academy of Sciences, Dixon has had a distinguished scientific career. He recently was named a foreign member of the Royal Society in the United Kingdom. His research has focused on a group of proteins called protein tyrosine phosphatases that govern a key biochemical reaction in which a phosphate group is added to another protein. The reaction, called phosphorylation, serves as a signaling mechanism between living cells.
Dixon’s research has implications for understanding a number of important scientific questions, including the uncontrolled growth that is characteristic of cancer, the routing of nerve fibers, and the success of disease-causing bacteria and viruses in overcoming the mammalian immune system.
Under Dixon’s leadership, the Institute opened the HHMI investigator selection process to direct application from scientists, thereby expanding the pool of scientists considered eligible for investigator positions. Dixon also helped establish an open access policy at HHMI to ensure its scientists’ discoveries are broadly shared across the scientific community. In partnership with the University of KwaZulu-Natal in South Africa, Dixon and his team recently spearheaded efforts to launch the KwaZulu-Natal Research Institute for Tuberculosis and HIV.
“I have learned a tremendous amount at HHMI,” Dixon said. “I’ve been very fortunate to work with some terrific people, and I think our collective efforts have benefited the scientific community as a whole.”
Dixon, 68, came to the Institute from the UCSD School of Medicine, where he served as dean of scientific affairs. He also served as a member of HHMI's Medical Advisory Board.
Dixon earned his Ph.D. in chemistry from the University of California, Santa Barbara, in 1971. After postdoctoral study at UCSD, he joined the biochemistry faculty at Purdue University in 1973. In 1986, he was appointed the Harvey W. Wiley Distinguished Professor of Biochemistry. In 1991, he moved to the University of Michigan, where he served as chair of the department of biological chemistry and held the Minor J. Coon Professorship. Dixon became co-director of Michigan's Life Sciences Institute in 2001, but returned to California in 2003 to rejoin UCSD, this time as dean of scientific affairs. At UCSD, he is professor of pharmacology, cellular and molecular medicine, chemistry, and biochemistry.
About the Howard Hughes Medical Institute
The Howard Hughes Medical Institute plays a powerful role in advancing scientific research and education in the United States. Its scientists, located across the United States and around the world, have made important discoveries that advance both human health and our fundamental understanding of biology. The Institute also aims to transform science education into a creative, interdisciplinary endeavor that reflects the excitement of real research. www.hhmi.org