Ali J. Marian, M.D.
James F. Martin, M.D., Ph.D.
Vivian L. Smith Chair in Regenerative Medicine;
Molecular Physiology and Biophysics;
Baylor College of Medicine;
Director, Cardiomyocyte Renewal Laboratory;
Texas Heart Institute;
Houston, TX US.
Eric Olson, Ph.D.
Professor and Chair;
Annie and Willie Nelson Professor in Stem Cell Research;
Pogue Distinguished Chair in Research on Cardiac Birth Defects;
The Robert A. Welch Distinguished Chair in Science;
Department of Molecular Biology;
Director, Center for Regenerative Science and Medicine;
Director, The Wellstone Center for Muscular Dystrophy Research;
UT Southwestern Medical Center Dallas, TX.
Dr. Eric Olson, the Rock Star of cardiovascular sciences, is the most eminent muscle molecular biologist of our era, who has discovered the key transcription regulators of cardiac and skeletal muscle development as well as the key signaling pathways and microRNAs regulating muscle growth and function. Dr. Olson’s elaborate work on CRISPR-Cas9 mediated genome and base editing has transformed the field of hereditary muscle and rhythm disorders and is innovating the management of these disorders by setting the stage for optimal lifelong treatment of these genetic conditions.
Dr. Olson received his Ph.D. from the Department of Biochemistry at Wake Forest University Medical Center and pursued postdoctoral training with Dr. Luis Glaser in the Department of Biological Chemistry at Washington University in St Louis. He then joined the faculty at MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston in 1984, where from the outset established himself with innovative discoveries as a trail-blazing scientist. He soon rose to the position of Chair of the Department in 1991. He was recruited to UT Southwestern to establish the Department of Molecular Biology in 1995. In addition to being the founding chair of the department, Dr. Olson is also the director of the Hamon Center for Regenerative Science and Medicine and the Wellstone Center for Muscular Dystrophy Research. Dr. Olson holds The Robert A. Welch Distinguished Chair in Science and the Annie and Willie Nelson Professorship in Stem Cell Research.
Eric Olson and his trainees, who have now become world-class leaders in cardiovascular sciences, have identified the key transcriptional regulators of muscle development, including myogenin, MEF2, HANDs, and myocardin to name a few. Likewise, Olson and his colleagues have successfully complemented the discoveries of the key muscle transcription factors with the identification and characterization of membrane proteins Myomaker and Myomixer that control myoblast fusion. The pioneering work of Dr. Olson and colleagues led to the identification of several microRNAs that regulate muscle development and cardiac function, including members of miR-208, which are therapeutic targets in heart failure, and miR-29 and miR-126, which are involved in cardiac fibrosis and angiogenesis, respectively. Dr. Olson and his colleagues have delineated the role of histone deacetylases and defined the signaling pathways that regulate the response of the cardiac and skeletal muscle to external and internal stressors, including calcineurin and MEF2 pathways. More recently Dr. Olson and his colleagues have pioneered the applications of CRISPR-Cas9 gene editing technologies to correct the underpinning genetic defects in Duchenne muscular dystrophy, hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, dilated cardiomyopathy, and cardiac arrhythmias. In the process of correcting the underlying genetic causes of muscle disorders and arrhythmias, Dr. Olson and his team have elucidated the fundamental mechanisms that govern tissue formation, muscle repair, and regeneration.
Dr. Olson has published his scientific discoveries in more than 500 articles in prestigious medical journals, including over 50 articles in PNAS, 14 in Science, 8 in Cell, and 7 in Nature, which collectively have garnered over 60,000 citations per Clarivate and over 200,000 citations by Google Scholar. More than a dozen of his articles has been cited over 1,000 times. Dr. Olson has an H index of 126 per Clarivate and 240 per Google Scholar. Dr. Olson has been recognized among the highly-cited scientists for several years including in 2023. He serves on the editorial board of numerous journals.
Dr. Olson is a member of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Medicine, and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. His scientific contributions have been recognized globally by numerous awards, including the Lefoulon-Delalande Grand Prize from French Academy of Science and the Basic Research Prize and Research Achievement Award from the American Heart Association, the Pasarow Medical Research Award, the Pollin Prize, the Passano Award, the March of Dimes Prize in Developmental Biology, Eric N. Olson Mentorship Award established by International Society for Heart Research, Edwin G. Conklin Medal in Developmental Biology, Libin Prize for Excellence in Cardiovascular Research, Heritage Foundation, Canada, Dallas Historical Society Award for Excellence in Medicine, Research Achievement Award, International Society for Heart Research, and The Eugene Braunwald Mentorship Award from the American Heart Association.
Dr. Olson is an exceptional mentor who has trained over 100 leaders in cardiovascular sciences. He and his colleagues have formed a classic rock/blues/funk band, aptly named “The Transactivators”, which is inspired by the Texas music legend Willie Nelson, who supports Olson’s research. Performing live with Willie Nelson in front of a crowd of 10,000 fans is a highlight of Olson’s career.
Dr. Olson has co-founded several biotechnology companies, which aim to develop novel therapies for heart and muscle disease, including Myogen, Miragen, Tenaya Therapeutics, and Exonics.
We are most honored and delighted to host Eric N. Olson, Ph.D. as the Speaker at the James T. Willerson, M.D. lectureship of The Journal of Cardiovascular Aging Webinar series.