Shaw named a Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigator

Andrey Shaw, M.D., the Emil R. Unanue Professor of Immunobiology in the Department of Pathology and Immunology, has been named an investigator of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI).

Shaw was one of 15 researchers selected nationwide. More than 200 physician-scientists applied for this year’s competition, which was focused on researchers who probe basic biomedical questions in innovative ways that help rapidly improve patient diagnosis and care.

Andrey Shaw

“I’m very pleased and honored to be selected for this prestigious appointment, which will provide a tremendous boost to our research programs,” said Shaw, who is director of the Division of Immunobiology.

As an investigator, Shaw’s laboratory at Washington University will be supported by HHMI. The initial term of the new appointment is five years; it is renewable after review. HHMI has committed $150 million to support of the 15 new investigators during their initial term.

HHMI selected Shaw for his work with podocytes, cells in a kidney structure called the glomerulus that filter the blood to make urine. He came to the kidney by way of studies of immune cell interaction. In 1999, Shaw found a gene he had identified in immune studies was essential for normal podocyte function. Loss of the gene led to kidney failure in mice. Now his lab is involved in a complex search for other genes that are essential to podocyte function and may as a result also be linked to kidney failure.

“Our big goal is to identify as many of these genes and their role in susceptibility to renal failure as possible,” Shaw said.

HHMI is a nonprofit medical research organization that ranks among the nation’s largest philanthropies. Its principal mission is conducting basic biomedical research. A total of 291 HHMI investigators, along with a scientific staff of 2,200, work at these institutions in Hughes laboratories.

HHMI investigators include both basic researchers investigating fundamental biomedical principles and physician-scientists like Shaw. This year’s competition for investigator appointments was the second to focus exclusively on physician-scientists.

Shaw’s appointment brings the number of University faculty with appointments as HHMI investigators to seven.

The other investigators are: Daniel E. Goldberg, M.D., Ph.D., professor of medicine and of molecular microbiology; Eduardo A. Groisman, Ph.D., professor of molecular microbiology; Kenneth M. Murphy, M.D., Ph.D., professor of pathology and immunology; Helen Piwnica-Worms, Ph.D., professor of cell biology and physiology and of medicine; J. Evan Sadler, M.D., Ph.D., professor of medicine and of biochemistry and molecular biophysics; and Wayne Yokoyama, M.D., the Sam J. Levin and Audrey Loew Levin Chair for Research of Arthritis and professor of medicine and of pathology and immunology.