Harry (Hal) Dietz, MD
July 2012—The A. Alfred Taubman Medical Research Institute at the University of Michigan has awarded Harry Dietz, M.D., the inaugural 2012 Taubman Prize for Excellence in Translational Medical Research. Dietz, director of the William S. Smilow Center for Marfan Syndrome Research and the Victor A. McKusick Professor of Genetics and Medicine, will attend the annual Taubman Institute Symposium in Ann Arbor, Michigan on October 11, 2012 where he will be honored and will serve as the keynote speaker. The award includes a $100,000 monetary prize.
“It’s a tribute to the extraordinary nature of Dr. Dietz’s work that our selection committee unanimously agreed to award him the Taubman Prize,” said Eva Feldman, M.D., Ph.D., director of the Taubman Institute. “We applaud his success and look forward to more important discoveries from his lab.”
Dietz identified losartan, an FDA-approved blood pressure medication, as a treatment for the symptoms of Marfan syndrome—a genetic disorder characterized by weakened connective tissue that can cause long limbs, a curved spine, detached lens in the eyes, leaky heart valves and a host of other symptoms.
Initially starting out as a pediatric cardiologist, Dietz saw many patients with Marfan syndrome who were attracted Johns Hopkins because of its strong medical genetics program. Dietz quickly tired of providing palliative care to his patients, and decided to embark on researching a cure for Marfan syndrome. He identified the defective gene and the molecular cause of Marfan syndrome. His research team later identified and tested the drug losartan, which prevents part of the aorta from overgrowing and becoming leaky. Dietz’ team continues to evaluate how well losartan controls other Marfan symptoms. As a specialist in connective tissue disorders, Dietz also studies the genetic causes and hopes to develop treatments for schleroderma and Loeys-Dietz and Ehlers-Danlos syndromes.
Dietz is a fellow of the National Academies of Science, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, Society for Pediatric Research and the American Society for Clinical Investigation. He has received the the Antoine Marfan Award from the National Marfan Foundation, the Curt Stern Award from the American Society of Human Genetics, and the Col. Harlan Sanders Lifetime Achievement Award from the American College of Medical Genetics.
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