Eric Olson of the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas won the 2012 Passano Award for his research on muscle differentiation, through which he identified major genetic pathways controlling the development of the heart and other muscles.
The founding chairman of the molecular biology department at UT-Southwestern, Olson has studied the genes and transcription factors responsible for development of the heart in embryos and defects resulting in congenital heart disease.
Announcing the award, Passano Foundation officials said Olson’s discoveries “have profoundly influenced our understanding of the mechanisms responsible for development and dysfunction of the heart.”
Twenty-three past winners of the Passano Award have gone on to win the Nobel Prize. Three have ties to UT-Southwestern, including Michael S. Brown and his co-winner, Joseph L. Goldstein, who emphasized in a statement that Olson’s work has “unveiled the molecular underpinnings of congenital and acquired diseases of the heart and established a foundation for the advancement of new cardiovascular therapeutics.” Indeed, several drugs based on Olson’s findings are under development.