Pagliarini Appoints Hugo F. and Ina C. Urbauer Professors – Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis

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Recognized for work on mitochondria, the powerhouse of cells

Mark Biven

Dr. David J. Pagliarinia nationally recognized leader in mitochondrial biology and BJC investigator At the School of Medicine, was named the first Hugo F. and Ina C. Urbauer Professor at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis.

Pagliarini was installed by President Andrew D. Martin and Executive Vice President for Medical Affairs Dr. David H. Perlmutter, Dean of the George and Carroll Ball School of Medicine, and Spencer T. and Ann W. Olin Distinguished Professors. The professorship is supported by a generous legacy gift from Ina C. Urbauer in 1947.

“Dr. Pagliarini’s research opens up new avenues for understanding fundamental biological processes and sheds light on a range of rare but devastating diseases,” Martin said. “I thank Mrs. Urbauer for her generous donation to the Faculty of Medicine, which made this professorship possible. It will provide ongoing support to Dr. Pagliarini.”

Mitochondria coordinate various metabolic processes—such as producing energy—for nearly all human cells, enabling microscopic organelles to play a key role in human health, resilience and longevity. Mitochondrial dysfunction causes a variety of genetic diseases, most of which have few and no treatment options.

“Dr. Pagliarini has done innovative and pioneering work on the molecular basis of mitochondrial function,” Perlmutter said. “He has deepened our understanding of how specific molecules underlie mitochondrial function, how they contribute to genetic disease, and how new technologies enable a broader understanding. His work has already had an indelible impact on his field, and I’m sure he has much more to offer contribute.”

A professor of cell biology and physiology, biochemistry and molecular biophysics, and genetics, Pagliarini works on basic mitochondrial biology to better understand mitochondrial diseases. Early in his career, he created a compendium called MitoCarta, which identified about 1,200 human and mouse mitochondrial proteins. The compendium, which has been cited nearly 2,000 times since it was published in the journal Cell in 2008, revealed that most mitochondrial proteins have no known function, including many proteins implicated in human disease. His lab is now working to link these orphan proteins to mitochondrial pathways and processes to understand how mitochondria function and how their dysfunction affects human health. This work helps to determine the genetic basis of multiple inherited mitochondrial diseases.

“Dave is a very rigorous and creative scientist who has been at the forefront of the renaissance in metabolism research,” said David W. Piston, Ph.D.Edward Mallinckrodt Jr. Professor and Principal Department of Cell Biology and Physiology“His paper on MitoCarta is considered the gold standard for mitochondrial research and has been the starting point for many mitochondrial studies conducted by scientists around the world. A characteristic of Dave’s work is that he is not content to merely discover metabolites and other biomolecules; he conducts Detailed mechanistic experiments to determine the function of the molecules he discovered. His lab has pieced together how each of these molecules affects various biological processes, opening new avenues for understanding and treating mitochondrial diseases.”

Pagliarini’s many honors and awards include the Searle Scholar Award, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers, the Protein Society’s Young Investigator Award in Protein Science, and the Earl and Thressa Stadtman Young Scholar in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology of America Society Award.

Pagliarini earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of Notre Dame, a master’s degree in biochemistry from the University of Michigan, and a doctorate in biomedical sciences from the University of California, San Diego. Before joining the University of Wisconsin, he completed postdoctoral research at Harvard Medical School. He joined the University of Washington School of Medicine in 2020 as a BJC Fellow.

Ina Champ Urbauer is the daughter of a famous manufacturer in St. Louis. She married Hugo Urbauer in 1913, and over the next few decades she expanded her husband’s former heating company into a Midwest plumbing and supply company, which grew to include three branch plants and numerous sales offices across the country place.

Urbauers remember the University of Washington in their bequests. Hugo Urbauer’s endowment funded the construction of Urbauer Hall and the Engineering Laboratory Building, and the balance of his estate established an endowment that still benefits the McKelvey School of Engineering. In 1994, the endowment fund was used to establish the Hugo F. and Ina Champ Urbauer Professorship in Engineering.

As a member of Midwest Piping and Supply’s board of directors, Ina Urbauer bequeathed all of her company stock to the medical school. This transformative gift created and now maintains the Hugo F. and Ina C. Urbauer Professorship in the School of Medicine.

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