Eric N. Olson, Ph.D. - May 15, 7-8 p.m.

Return to Speaker Schedule

“Heart Making and Heart Breaking: New Strategies for Heart Repair”

Heart disease remains the primary cause of morbidity and mortality in the developed world. A major reason for this statistic is that the adult human heart has limited regenerative capacity following injury. Dr. Olson is known for his work identifying major genetic pathways that control the formation of the heart and other muscles. He will discuss recent advances in understanding the mechanisms of cardiac injury and regeneration as well as strategies for promoting cardiac repair.


Eric N. Olson, Ph.D.
Professor and Chair, Department of Molecular Biology
University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center

Eric N. Olson is professor and chair of the Department of Molecular Biology at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas, where he also is the Robert A. Welch Distinguished Chair in Science, the Annie and Willie Nelson Professor, and the Pogue Distinguished Chair in Research on Cardiac Birth Defects.

Dr. Olson and his colleagues discovered many of the key transcription factors and mechanisms responsible for heart development and disease. He also unveiled the calcium-dependent signaling pathways and epigenetic mechanisms that drive pathological cardiac hypertrophy and heart failure. Most recently, Olson identified a cohort of microRNAs that modulate heart disease, blood vessel formation and obesity. Dr. Olson’s discoveries at the interface of developmental biology and medicine have profoundly influenced our understanding of the development and dysfunction of the cardiovascular system, providing new concepts in the quest for cardiovascular therapeutics.

Dr. Olson attended Wake Forest University, receiving a B.A. in chemistry and biology and a Ph.D. in biochemistry. He later received an honorary doctorate from his alma mater. After postdoctoral training at Washington University School of Medicine, he began his scientific career at M.D. Anderson Cancer Center. In 1995, he founded the Department of Molecular Biology at UT Southwestern.

Known as a dedicated mentor, Dr. Olson has trained an impressive succession of students and postdoctoral fellows, many of whom are emerging as the next generation of leaders in cardiovascular medicine. He has published over 500 scientific articles and is among the most highly cited scientists in biology with over 50,000 citations in the literature.

He is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the U.S. National Academy of Sciences, and its Institute of Medicine. His awards include the Basic Research Prize, Research Achievement Award, and Inaugural Distinguished Scientist Award from the American Heart Association, the Pasarow Award, the Pollin Prize in Pediatric Research, and the Medal of Merit from the International Academy of Cardiovascular Sciences. In 2009, the French Academy of Science awarded Dr. Olson the Fondation Lefoulon-Delalande Grand Prize. He is the 2012 recipient of the Passano Award and the Steven C. Beering Award.

Dr. Olson is also an entrepreneur and has co-founded multiple biotechnology companies pursuing new therapeutics for heart disease. In his spare time, he plays guitar and harmonica with the Transactivators, a rock band inspired by the Texas icon, Willie Nelson, who established the professorship that Dr. Olson holds.