Michael Dyer, Ph.D., a scientist at St. Jude Children's Research Hospital, has been selected as a Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) investigator. Dyer is one of 27 scientists nationwide chosen for the recognition from among 1,155 applicants. There are approximately 330 HHMI investigators in the United States, and Dyer will become the third of these investigators currently working at St. Jude.
Investigators selected for the program by HHMI are some of the country's top biomedical researchers, demonstrating creativity, innovative and excellence in their areas of study. Dyer is an expert in the fields of developmental neurobiology, cell cycle regulation, stem cell biology, developmental therapeutics and cancer genetics.
"Dr. Dyer's research has repeatedly overturned long-held beliefs in science, earning him great respect as a world-class scientist and as an innovator," said Dr. William E. Evans, St. Jude director and CEO. "Being selected as an HHMI investigator is a great honor for any scientist, and the additional funding it provides will accelerate Dr. Dyer's research and the impact he is having on the treatment of childhood cancers."
Dyer's contributions include a 2007 study that showed brain cells called neurons could still divide. The finding countered a century-old scientific belief that differentiated, or mature, nerve cells could not multiply and make new cells. In 2012, Dyer and his colleagues demonstrated that an unexpected mechanism was responsible for the rapid growth of an eye tumor called retinoblastoma.
Dyer is a member of the St. Jude Developmental Neurobiology department and co-leader of the Developmental Therapeutics for Solid Malignancies Program. He is also an investigator with the St. Jude Children's Research Hospital-Washington University Pediatric Cancer Genome Project, an effort to decode the genomes of childhood cancer patients and identify the genetic missteps that lead to disease.
Through the HHMI Investigator Program, scientists are provided salary, benefits and a research budget during their initial five-year appointment. The initiative represents an investment in basic biomedical research of approximately $150 million. This year's groups of investigators hail from 19 institutions and represent a variety of scientific disciplines.
Dyer joined the St. Jude faculty in 2002 and quickly emerged as a leader in the study of retinoblastoma. He has received numerous honors and awards, including the 2008 Cogan Award from the Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology, a Career Development Award from Research to Prevent Blindness, as well as that organization's Lew R. Wasserman Merit Award. Dyer was also selected as a Pew Scholar in the Biomedical Sciences and was named an HHMI Early Career Scientist. He received his doctoral degree in molecular and cellular biology from Harvard University and completed his postdoctoral training at Harvard Medical School.
Dyer joins St. Jude researchers Charles Sherr, M.D., Ph.D., and Brenda Schulman, Ph.D., in holding HHMI investigator designations. The new HHMI investigators begin their appointments in September 2013.