Public Release: 

Penn Medicine immunologist receives early career honor from Burroughs Wellcome Fund

Award will support research on role of gut microbiota in obesity, type 2 diabetes

University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine

PHILADELPHIA--Jorge Henao-Mejia, MD, PhD, an assistant professor of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine in the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, has received the Investigators in the Pathogenesis of Infectious Disease (PATH) award from the Burroughs Wellcome Fund, an independent foundation based in Research Triangle Park, NC dedicated to advancing the biomedical sciences. Henao-Mejia will receive $500,000 over five years, and was one of 12 recipients selected from 152 nominees nationwide.

Under the grant, Henao-Mejia will work to uncover how minute organisms in the gut contribute to obesity and type 2 diabetes, findings which could pave the way from new treatments to reduce the ever-growing number of people diagnosed with these serious medical conditions.

All mammals live in symbiosis with the gastrointestinal microbiota: trillions of microorganisms within the gastrointestinal tract, comprising bacteria, viruses, fungi, and other single-celled animals. These microbial communities are essential for many bodily processes, but disturbances in their configuration (dysbiosis) are associated with the development of common human disorders. Exactly how the microbiota regulates key physiological functions in the host remains poorly understood. Under his PATH grant, Henao-Mejia will seek to better understand one of these processes: how the gut microbiota regulates obesity and insulin resistance, leading to type 2 diabetes.

PATH awards provide support for assistant professors to bring multidisciplinary approaches to the study of human infectious diseases, with a focus on how the microbiota affects human health. Henao-Mejia received his medical degree from the University of Antioquia in Colombia and his PhD in microbiology and immunology from Indiana University. He was a postdoctoral fellow in the Immunology Department at Yale University, before joining Penn in 2014.


TOPIC: Basic Science

Penn Medicine is one of the world's leading academic medical centers, dedicated to the related missions of medical education, biomedical research, and excellence in patient care. Penn Medicine consists of the Raymond and Ruth Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania (founded in 1765 as the nation's first medical school) and the University of Pennsylvania Health System, which together form a $7.8 billion enterprise.

The Perelman School of Medicine has been ranked among the top medical schools in the United States for more than 20 years, according to U.S. News & World Report's survey of research-oriented medical schools. The School is consistently among the nation's top recipients of funding from the National Institutes of Health, with $405 million awarded in the 2017 fiscal year.

The University of Pennsylvania Health System's patient care facilities include: The Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania and Penn Presbyterian Medical Center -- which are recognized as one of the nation's top "Honor Roll" hospitals by U.S. News & World Report -- Chester County Hospital; Lancaster General Health; Penn Medicine Princeton Health; Penn Wissahickon Hospice; and Pennsylvania Hospital - the nation's first hospital, founded in 1751. Additional affiliated inpatient care facilities and services throughout the Philadelphia region include Good Shepherd Penn Partners, a partnership between Good Shepherd Rehabilitation Network and Penn Medicine, and Princeton House Behavioral Health, a leading provider of highly skilled and compassionate behavioral healthcare.

Penn Medicine is committed to improving lives and health through a variety of community-based programs and activities. In fiscal year 2017, Penn Medicine provided $500 million to benefit our community.

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