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St. Jude Children's Research Hospital names Department of Developmental Neurobiology chair

Michael Dyer, Ph.D., an expert in developmental neurobiology to chair the department and build a team of international leaders in neural development, synapse formation and neural circuit formation

Memphis, Tennessee, June 8, 2016

Michael Dyer, Ph.D.

Michael Dyer, Ph.D.

St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital officials have named Michael Dyer, Ph.D., chair of the Department of Developmental Neurobiology.

Dyer, who joined St. Jude in 2002 as an assistant member in Developmental Neurobiology, has received numerous awards for his work, including being named a Pew Scholar, the Cogan Award Recipient and a Howard Hughes Medical Institute Early Career Scientist. In 2013, he was appointed an investigator of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute.

He was promoted to associate member in 2005 and to full member in 2009. Dyer holds the Richard C. Shadyac Endowed Chair in Pediatric Cancer Research, and he currently serves as the Developmental Biology Division Director and co-program leader for the Developmental Biology and Solid Tumor Program.

“A true visionary in his field, Dyer is a remarkable scientist who has worked tirelessly to unravel some of the long-held mysteries of childhood cancer,” said James R. Downing, M.D., St. Jude president and chief executive officer. “His drive to answer challenging and thought-provoking questions will help guide the Department of Developmental Neurobiology.”

Dyer’s contributions include a 2007 study that found brain cells called neurons could still divide. The finding countered a century-old scientific belief that differentiated, or mature, nerve cells could not multiply and make new cells. In 2012, Dyer and his colleagues demonstrated that an unexpected mechanism was responsible for the rapid growth of an eye tumor called retinoblastoma.

Dyer’s current research is focused on understanding how retinal progenitor cells coordinate proliferation and cell fate specification during development, and how genetic alterations in solid tumors, particularly retinoblastoma, can provide leads for the development of new therapeutic approaches.

“By the year 2021, the Developmental Neurobiology department’s faculty will include international leaders in neural development, synapse formation and neural circuit formation,” Dyer said. “One common theme across the department will be relating our basic research to human diseases, including neuropathies and cancer. In addition, our expertise in basic and translational research in the areas of brain tumors and solid tumors will position the department as a strong contributor to the St. Jude Comprehensive Cancer Center.”

Dyer sees the integration of the department’s faculty in the Neurobiology and Brain Tumor Program crucial for the successful translation of basic scientific discoveries on neurodevelopment from the laboratory to the clinic.

Dyer received his bachelor’s degree with honors from the University of California at Los Angeles in Microbiology and Molecular Genetics. He earned his doctorate from Harvard University and completed a postdoctoral fellowship at Harvard Medical School.

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% to 80% since the hospital opened more than 50 years ago. St. Jude shares the discoveries it makes, and every child saved at St. Jude means doctors and scientists worldwide can use that knowledge to save thousands more children. To learn more, visit or follow St. Jude on social media at @stjuderesearch.