by Alexandra MacWade, assistant editor
Huda Y. Zoghbi, a pediatric neurologist and neuroscientist who has made key discoveries in the study of brain disorders, has been elected to Rockefeller’s Board of Trustees. With her election, which took place at the Board’s October 19 meeting, the university has 49 voting Trustees.
Dr. Zoghbi, who was awarded the 2013 Pearl Meister Greengard Prize at Rockefeller, is Ralph D. Feigin Professor at Baylor College of Medicine. She has focused much of her work on the genetic underpinnings of rare neurological diseases. Her interests range from neurodevelopment to neurodegeneration. In 1993, she discovered, along with Harry Orr of the University of Minnesota, the gene that is mutated in spinocerebellar ataxia type 1—a progressive neurodegenerative disorder that typically strikes in adulthood and affects balance and motor functions.
Later, Dr. Zoghbi’s group discovered that mutations in MECP2 cause the postnatal neurological disorder Rett syndrome and revealed the importance of this gene for various neuropsychiatric traits. Dr. Zoghbi’s work on these rare brain disorders has significantly advanced research of more common conditions, including autism, Parkinson’s, and Alzheimer’s.
“I love Rockefeller University, and the research being done there is first-rate,” says Dr. Zoghbi, who is also the founding director of the Jan and Dan Duncan Neurological Research Institute at Texas Children’s Hospital. “The opportunity to serve on the Board was just too good to pass up.”
A native of Lebanon, she received her undergraduate degree in biology from the American University of Beirut and her M.D. from Meharry Medical College in Nashville, Tennessee. She joined the faculty of Baylor College of Medicine in 1988 as assistant professor in the department of pediatrics and the department of molecular and human genetics. Dr. Zoghbi, who has been an investigator at the Howard Hughes Medical Research Institute since 1996, is the recipient of several honors in addition to the Pearl Meister Greengard Prize, including the 2014 Edward M. Scolnick Prize in Neuroscience, the 2014 March of Dimes Prize in Developmental Biology, and the 2016 Shaw Prize in Life Science and Medicine. She is a member of the National Academy of Sciences and the National Academy of Medicine.
Editor’s note: On December 4, Dr. Zoghbi was awarded the prestigious Breakthrough Prize in Life Sciences.