Elliot V. Newman Professor of Medicine, Biochemistry and Pathology
Director of the Center for Matrix Biology
B3102 Medical Center North
1161 21st Avenue South
Nashville, TN 37232
Billy received his Ph.D. degree in Biochemistry from the University of Iowa and was a postdoctoral fellow at Harvard Medical School. His appointments have included: Associate Professor of Biochemistry at Oklahoma State University; Professor and Chair of Biochemistry and Dean of Research at Kansas University Medical Center. His research has focused on ancient collagen proteins that compose basement membranes, a specialized form of extracellular matrix. The matrix is essential for the development and maintenance of tissue architecture and function in all multi-cellular organisms from sponge to human. His research group described how the assembly of a complex α3α4α5 network that functions as a key component of the kidney filtration barrier that is directly involved in the pathogenic mechanisms underlying several diseases that cause kidney failure in millions of people. His work has defined the three-dimensional structure and antibody binding sites of the autoantigen of Goodpasture syndrome, uncovering clues to the pathogenesis of a prototype autoimmune disease.
Billy is a co-founder of NephroGenex, a biotech company that is developing Pyridorin, a drug-candidate which was discovered in his laboratory for the prevention of diabetic kidney disease. He is also co-founder of the Aspirnaut Initiative, an educational initiative that encourages students, kindergarten thru undergraduate, to pursue studies and careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics. The initiative has received national publicity for equipping middle and high school students with laptop computers and broadband internet access to turn long school bus rides into productive learning time.
Aspirnaut™ is a K‐20 STEM pipeline program that partners the experiential and content expertise of Vanderbilt University with rural K‐12 schools. The goal is to increase STEM achievement and increase the number of rural students entering the STEM workforce.
There are two major components to the program:
1. “Beaming” or videoconferencing of hands‐on inquiry‐based STEM labs weekly into rural elementary and middle school classrooms.
2. Summer research internships at Vanderbilt University for high school and undergraduate students.
The Aspirnaut program was featured in the December 2011 issue of ASBMB Today.