St. Jude scientist named Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator

Memphis, Tennessee, May 19, 2015

J. Paul Taylor, M.D. Ph.D.

J. Paul Taylor, M.D., Ph.D., of St. Jude Children's Research Hospital, has been recognized as one of the nation’s leading biomedical researchers by the Howard Hughes Medical Institute

J. Paul Taylor, M.D. Ph.D., a faculty member of St. Jude Children's Research Hospital, has been selected as a Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) investigator. Taylor is one of 26 scientists nationwide chosen for the recognition from over 1,000 applicants. There are approximately 330 HHMI investigators in the United States, and Taylor will become the fourth of these investigators currently working at St. Jude.

Investigators selected for the program by HHMI are some of the country’s top biomedical researchers, demonstrating creativity, innovation and excellence in their areas of study. Taylor is an expert in the fields of cell and molecular biology, neurological diseases and genetics.

“In science, really big payoffs come when you stick your neck out. HHMI support will allow my team to be creative and take chances, which will hopefully lead to ground-breaking scientific contributions. I am honored to be named an HHMI investigator, and looking forward to collaborating with the other investigators to further advance scientific innovation,” said Taylor.

Taylor’s contributions include a 2013 study published in Nature that identified genes responsible for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) and learned how mutations in these genes disrupt the way cells process RNA. The findings offered a new avenue for researchers to pursue new treatment options for those living with ALS, a disorder that kills most patients within five years of diagnosis.

Taylor is chair of the St. Jude Cell and Molecular Biology Department. He has been recognized with numerous awards for his research including the Derek Denny-Brown Young Neurological Scholar Award and the Vince Kidd Memorial Mentor of the Year Award. In 2014, he delivered the George Karpati Memorial Lecture at Montreal Neurological Institute, and in 2015, he delivered the Lisa. S. Krivickas Memorial Lecture at Massachusetts General Hospital at Harvard Medical School.

Through the HHMI Investigator Program, scientists are provided salary, benefits and a research budget during their initial five-year appointment. The initiative represents an investment in basic biomedical research of approximately $153 million. This year’s groups of investigators hail from 19 institutions and represent a variety of scientific disciplines.

“Dr. Taylor’s research has changed the way we study some of the rarest and most catastrophic diseases, earning him respect as a world-class scientist and visionary,” said Dr. James Downing, St. Jude president and chief executive officer. “Being selected as an HHMI investigator is a great honor for any scientist, and the additional support it provides will accelerate Dr. Taylor’s research and the impact he is having on the treatment of devastating illnesses.”

Taylor joins St. Jude researchers Charles Sherr, M.D., Ph.D., and Brenda Schulman, Ph.D., Michael Dyer, Ph.D. in holding HHMI investigator designations. The new HHMI investigators begin their appointments in September 2015.

St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital

St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital is leading the way the world understands, treats and cures childhood cancer and other life-threatening diseases. It is the only National Cancer Institute-designated Comprehensive Cancer Center devoted solely to children. Treatments developed at St. Jude have helped push the overall childhood cancer survival rate from 20 percent to 80 percent since the hospital opened more than 50 years ago. St. Jude freely shares the breakthroughs it makes, and every child saved at St. Jude means doctors and scientists worldwide can use that knowledge to save thousands more children. Families never receive a bill from St. Jude for treatment, travel, housing and food — because all a family should worry about is helping their child live. To learn more, visit stjude.org or follow the hospital on Twitter and Instagram at @stjuderesearch.