Dr. Michael Blackburn
Dr. Michael Blackburn

Michael R. Blackburn, Ph.D., a nationally recognized lung disease researcher and academic leader, has been appointed executive vice president and chief academic officer of The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston (UTHealth). The appointment was effective Jan. 1.

Blackburn’s duties include enhancing collaboration among researchers at the university’s schools of medicine, nursing, public health, biomedical informatics, biomedical sciences and dentistry, as well as providing strategic leadership for the university’s research efforts. In this role, he will also work alongside George Stancel, Ph.D., executive vice president for academic and research affairs, on the organization, management and oversight of UTHealth’s research portfolio.

“Dr. Blackburn is a distinguished scientist and educator dedicated to enhancing and expanding the research and academic enterprise,” said UTHealth President Giuseppe Colasurdo, M.D. “His demonstrated effectiveness as dean of one of the most innovative graduate programs in the country and his success as an investigator will benefit all of UTHealth and complement our already strong research programs.”

Blackburn joined the UTHealth faculty in 1997 and has served as the vice chairman of the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology at McGovern Medical School at UTHealth since 2011. In 2012, Blackburn and Michelle C. Barton, Ph.D., of The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, were named joint deans of The University of Texas Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences at Houston.

Blackburn will continue his duties at McGovern Medical School and the Graduate School.

“My job will be to work with the president to help the university’s six schools be the best they can be,” Blackburn said. “This will involve the implementation of new and innovative ways to support research and enhance collaboration amongst UTHealth faculty and the Texas Medical Center community. We will work to increase our research footprint and put in place support services to keep us on the cutting edge of research and education.”

Blackburn added, “Science is advancing at a rapid pace with an increasing need for teams of scientists and clinicians to work together and utilize advanced technology to make discoveries, solve problems and enhance health care delivery.  UTHealth is an outstanding institution with dedicated faculty, students and staff.  I hope that within the next five to 10 years UTHealth will grow into a model institution where complex teams work together for the greater good of science. I look forward to this journey.”

Blackburn’s research is focused on a signaling molecule called adenosine that plays a critical role in certain acute and chronic lung diseases and is being used to advance the development of therapies.

Blackburn’s adenosine research is one of the projects being supported by a Program Project Grant of nearly $10 million by the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute of the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

Blackburn received a bachelor’s degree in biology from King University in Bristol, Tenn., and a doctorate in developmental biology at Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia. He completed a postdoctoral fellowship in molecular genetics at Baylor College of Medicine.

He is a recipient of an NIH National Research Award, the Sandler Program for Asthma Research Young Investigator Award, an American Lung Association Career Investigator Award and the UTHealth President’s Scholar Award for Research. Blackburn is the director of the UTHealth Pulmonary Center of Excellence.

Blackburn is the William S. Kilroy, Sr. Chair in Pulmonary Disease and the John P. McGovern Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences Endowed Distinguished Professor at UTHealth.

Also at UTHealth, Colasurdo is the Alkek-Williams Distinguished Chair and Stancel is the Roger J. Bulger, M.D. Distinguished Professor.