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On July 1, 2012, Dr. Michael Blackburn (’88) was jointly appointed to the position
of dean of the University of Texas Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences (UT GSBS)
along with Dr. Michelle Barton. Blackburn also serves as professor and vice chairman
of the department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology at the UTHealth Medical School.
The graduate school consists of students that reside in two larger institutions –
the University Of Texas Health Science Center at Houston and MD Anderson Cancer Center.
Graduate students of both these institutions receive their degree through the UT GSBS.
UT brought in a dean from each of the major institutions to serve as leaders. “I
am the dean representing UT Health Science Center and Dr. Barton for MD Anderson.
We are serving jointly, and, together, bring expertise from both institutions,” said
Blackburn. The institutions are located within the Texas Medical Center, the largest
medical center in the world.
When asked if his time at King made a difference in his future accomplishments, Blackburn
was quick to reply. “It had everything to do with it. Coming to King made all the
difference. It was really a life changer for me. I came to King for summer school
after my parents moved to Bristol and took a pre-calculus class under the tutelage
of Dr. Andy Simoson. He instilled in me an excitement to learn that I had not had
in high school or even my first year in college. It was then I decided not to return
to the school I had been attending and applied, successfully, to King.
“My mentor while at King was, now retired King Science professor, Dr. Charles Owens,”
continued Blackburn. “The individualized attention I received from him and other
professors taught me how to be an educator, to concentrate on the student, and to
take personal interest. This played a large role in me being successful as a scientist,
educator, and administrator.”
Blackburn received his Bachelor of Science in Biology from King in 1988, and then
went on to earn his PhD in Developmental Biology from Thomas Jefferson University
in Philadelphia in 1993. From 1993 to 1997, he was a National Institutes of Health
(NIH) postdoctoral fellow in the Department of Biochemistry at Baylor College of Medicine.
Since that time, he has been a faculty member in the Department of Biochemistry and
Molecular Biology at UTHealth Medical School and a member of the UT GSBS faculty.
In his research, Blackburn has developed and characterized numerous models designed
to examine the contribution of endogenous adenosine to the regulation of chronic diseases
such as COPD, asthma, pulmonary fibrosis and pulmonary hypertension. Collectively,
his research efforts have led to the development of novel therapies for the treatment
of chronic lung diseases that include adenosine deaminase (ADA) enzyme therapy and
the use of specific adenosine receptor antagonists to regulate pulmonary inflammation
and remodeling. His work has been continuously funded by the NIH for 15 years, and
he has received several awards including an American Lung Association Career Development
Award, and a Young Investigator Award from the American Asthma Foundation.
While serving as dean, Blackburn continues to run a large lab located at UTHealth
Medical School in Houston, Texas.
“I feel very humbled to be chosen for the leadership at UT GSBS,” said Blackburn.
“What I learned at King about having a personal commitment to the individual has been
my approach. I have been very fortunate to have great mentors, first at King, and
throughout my career. That, along with the support of my family and my faith, has
been the key to my success.”
His advice to King students was to let them know what they do makes a difference.
“No matter what you do, you impact other people’s lives - so do it well.”