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Release: May 28, 2002

Howard Hughes Medical Institute appoints UI's Stone as investigator

A University of Iowa physician and researcher has received a major honor and funding of his research into the genetics of many inherited blinding diseases through his appointment today as a Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) investigator.

Edwin Stone, M.D., Ph.D., professor of ophthalmology and visual sciences at the UI Roy J. and Lucille A. Carver College of Medicine, is one of only 12 scientists nationwide to receive an HHMI appointment this year. He is the fifth UI investigator ever to receive such an appointment.

The latest HHMI appointees, including Stone, join 324 individuals currently participating in the HHMI program, which fosters the translation of basic science discoveries into treatment advances for patients.

"This group of physician-scientists has already made impressive contributions to understanding some of society's most vexing health problems, including AIDS, cardiovascular disease and cancer," said Thomas Cech, HHMI president. "We believe that they have the potential to continue to improve health care by finding new ways to translate basic science discoveries into useful therapy for patients."

Stone, who is director of the Roy J. Carver Molecular Ophthalmology Laboratory, has led or co-led national and international research teams that have located genes responsible for 14 different eye diseases and identified more than 70 different mutations that cause a range of diseases. Stone also is director of the UI Center for Macular Degeneration and the UI Kolder Electrophysiology Laboratory, and is a staff physician at UI Hospitals and Clinics and the Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Iowa City.

Stone and his colleagues identified a gene that causes primary open angle glaucoma, which is the second leading cause of blindness in the United States. He also helped identify genes for an inherited form of macular degeneration, three forms of corneal dystrophy and enhanced S-cone syndrome, a rare developmental form of visual impairment.

The HHMI appointment is a great honor in many ways, said Mary Sue Coleman, Ph.D., UI president. "I am very pleased for Dr. Stone and delighted for the college and the university as a whole," Coleman said. "The Howard Hughes Medical Institute appointment recognizes both Dr.

Stone's and the University of Iowa's commitment to research that can profoundly change our understanding of serious diseases."

Many of Stone's studies have been performed in collaboration with Val Sheffield, M.D., Ph.D., UI professor of pediatrics and a Howard Hughes Medical Institute associate investigator who joined HHMI ranks in 1997.

In addition to Stone and Sheffield, current HHMI investigators at the UI are Kevin Campbell, Ph.D., the Roy J. Carver Chair in Physiology and Biophysics and professor of neurology; and Michael Welsh, M.D., the Roy J. Carver Chair in Internal Medicine, and Physiology and Biophysics. Campbell investigates muscular dystrophy, and Welsh studies cystic fibrosis. Both investigators received their initial HHMI appointments in 1989 and five-year renewals in 1999. In addition, John Donelson, Ph.D., UI Foundation Distinguished Professor and Head of Biochemistry, previously served as an HHMI investigator.

The growing number of HHMI investigators at the UI points to its research strengths and worldwide reputation, said Robert Kelch, M.D., vice president for statewide health services and dean of the UI Carver College of Medicine.

"University of Iowa investigators are leading the way in many fields, and Ed Stone exemplifies this excellence for which our faculty are known," Kelch said. "The HHMI appointment is a wonderful way to recognize Dr. Stone's expertise and will help assure continued UI leadership in eye research."

The Howard Hughes Medical Institute, based in Maryland, was founded in 1953 by aviator-industrialist Howard Hughes to promote the basic sciences and the effective application of findings to benefit humankind. The institute supports investigators who study cell biology, genetics, immunology, neuroscience and structural biology at academic medical centers and universities. HHMI provides salaries, laboratory space and equipment for investigators and their research teams.

Stone earned his bachelor's degree in biology and English from Rice University. He received a doctorate in cell biology and a medical degree through the medical scientist training program at Baylor College of Medicine. After an internship at St. Joseph Hospital in Houston, he completed a residency in ophthalmology and a fellowship in vitreoretinal diseases and surgery, both at the UI.

The author of more than 130 articles and book chapters, Stone also is editor of the ophthalmic genetics section of Archives of Ophthalmology.

For more information about Stone's research, visit the UI Molecular Ophthalmology Laboratory Web site at http://mol.ophth.uiowa.edu/ and the UI Center for Macular Degeneration Web site at http://www.ophth.uiowa.edu/CMD/Default.html. In addition, the following UI news releases describe some of Stone's previous findings:

http://news-releases.uiowa.edu/1997/january/0131glaucoma.html

http://news-releases.uiowa.edu/1999/june/0601macular.html

http://news-releases.uiowa.edu/2000/february/0201blindness.html

http://news-releases.uiowa.edu/2001/may/0530obesity-diabetes.html

University of Iowa Health Care describes the partnership between the UI Roy J. and Lucille A. Carver College of Medicine and UI Hospitals and Clinics and the patient care, medical education and research programs and services they provide. Visit UI Health Care online at www.uihealthcare.com.