A supplement to the Mission magazine highlighting advancements at the The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio and the heroes who help make them happen.
Vanguard - UT Health Science Center at San Antonio
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Gregg B. Fields, Ph.D.
Gregg B. Fields, Ph.D., is the Robert A. Welch Distinguished University Chair in Chemistry at the Health Science Center. His research focuses on the design of new therapeutics that will help prevent the spread of tumors, while minimizing side effects on other connective tissues of the body.

Welch Foundation funds endowment and research
Researchers at the UT Health Science Center San Antonio produce and translate groundbreaking research into clinical care that saves lives. Major gifts, annual giving, corporate and foundation support, endowments and planned gifts are vital to sustaining the momentum of making lives better.

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Dr. Masters is university’s first Welch Foundation Chair

Bettie Sue Masters, Ph.D.Bettie Sue Masters, Ph.D., who was recruited from the Medical College of Wisconsin, became the first Robert A. Welch Distinguished Chair in Chemistry at the Health Science Center. This endowment from the Welch Foundation permitted Dr. Masters to enter the field of nitric oxide biology and chemistry and to make new discoveries possible at the Health Science Center.

“Our studies, at the molecular level, have led to a greater understanding of the body’s regulation of the enzymes that produce nitric oxide, which is vital to determining how to control its production,” Dr. Masters said. “If the body produces excessive nitric oxide under a variety of circumstances, autoimmune disorders, such as rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis and even diabetes may result, and in rampant infections a lethal drop in blood pressure (septic shock) can occur. Without the Welch Foundation funds, this research would not have been possible, since this was a new, unfunded research frontier for our laboratory.”

Dr. Masters said the Welch Foundation endowment has allowed her team to maintain continuity and secure more than $1.7 million
in renewed funding from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) for the next four years for this work. This is in addition to her other $2.6 million NIH-funded project involving research into the role of the riboflavin-containing enzyme, cytochrome P450 reductase.

“Being selected as the first Robert A. Welch Distinguished Chair in Chemistry at the Health Science Center is truly one of the singular honors of my professional life,” Dr. Masters said.

Bruce Nicholson, Ph.D., expressed his gratitude to the Welch Foundation for its support.

“We are immensely grateful to the Welch Foundation and its board for their generous support of our research and the faith they have placed in us to assign two Welch Chairs within our Department of Biochemistry,” Dr. Nicholson said. “The Foundation continues to have a lasting impact on our mission and our ability to conduct the highest quality science.”

These types of gifts enhance the Health Science Center’s effectiveness in competing for world-class scientists, clinicians and faculty to work in the Health Science Center’s signature areas of research and care.

For more than 30 years, the Welch Foundation has funded some of the most basic and groundbreaking research at the Health Science Center through generous contributions of grants and endowments totaling more than $9 million.

Dr. Fields is university’s second Welch Foundation Chair

Under the leadership of Merle S. Olson, Ph.D., who was chair of the Department of Biochemistry from 1983 to 2003 and former dean of the Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences (2003 – 2008), the Department of Biochemistry was awarded a $1 million endowment from the Welch Foundation. With an additional $1 million matching gift from an anonymous donor, the Health Science Center established the Robert A. Welch Distinguished University Chair in Chemistry.

Last year, Bruce Nicholson, Ph.D., professor and chair of the Department of Biochemistry, recruited Gregg B. Fields, Ph.D., to occupy the chair. Dr. Fields, a biochemist, arrived at the Health Science Center in August 2008 and brought his laboratory team and several million dollars in research grants to San Antonio from Florida Atlantic University, where he served as chair of the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry for eight years. He joins Bettie Sue Masters, Ph.D., also a professor in the Health Science Center’s Department of Biochemistry and a member of the prestigious Institute of Medicine of the National Academies of Science, who has held this Welch Foundation distinction for 20 years.

Dr. Nicholson said the Welch Foundation award has opened up an array of new and exciting research possibilities at the Health Science Center.

“The recruitment of Dr. Fields, and the potential this brings for building a new era of expertise at the Health Science Center would not have been possible without the Welch Foundation support and the national recognition that a Welch Chair brings with it,” Dr. Nicholson said.

Dr. Fields’ team strengthens the chemistry portion of drug-discovery research at the Health Science Center and its Cancer Therapy & Research Center because his research focuses on the design of new therapeutics that will help prevent the spread of tumors while minimizing side effects on other connective tissues of the body.

Dr. Nicholson said the significance of Dr. Fields’ recruitment was recognized by the UT System with its awarding of the Health Science Center’s first-ever STARs (Science and Technology Acquisition and Retention) Plus award, and its second STARs award, totaling $1.65 million. STARs funding is offered by the UT System to researchers who are accomplishing transformative work, and who, based on the opinions of internationally renowned experts, have the potential to be elected to the Institute of Medicine or to win the Nobel Prize.

The STARs and Welch Foundation funds will be used to renovate existing laboratory space and purchase new equipment needed to establish a nanomedicine research partnership with The University of Texas at San Antonio. STARs Plus funding will further allow the hiring of talented experts who possess the unique chemical training to accomplish this research effort. The goal of the partnership is to initiate more effective drug-discovery, delivery and targeting efforts in San Antonio.

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