Breakthrough Discovery Symposium I


Francisco Fuentes, M.D.
Department of Internal Medicine, Division of Cardiovascular Medicine
Chair, Breakthrough Discovery Symposium I

Heinrich Taegtmeyer, M.D., D.Phil., FACC, FAHA
Department of Internal Medicine, Division of Cardiovascular Medicine
“Oncometabolic tracks in the failing heart” 

Dr. Taegtmeyer received his M.D. (summa cum laude) from the University of Freiburg (Germany) in 1968, and his DPhil in Biochemistry from the University of Oxford, UK, in 1981. Dr. Taegtmeyer joined the UTHealth faculty in 1982. He served as Director of the UTHealth Cardiology Fellowship Program 1988-94 and achieved the rank of Professor in 1991. Dr. Taegtmeyer’s lab has received NIH research funding consistently over the last 30 years. He is a reviewer for many competitive journals. He served as an Associate Editor for Circulation(1993-2004); is an Associate Editor for Cardiology (1993-present), and is on the Editorial Boards of Circulation ResearchJournal of Molecular and Cellular CardiologyJournal of the American College of Cardiology, and Journal of the American College of Cardiology – Imaging. Dr. Taegtmeyer lectures worldwide on heart failure, diabetes, and heart metabolism.

Dr. Taegtmeyer is a member of Alpha Omega Alpha, a Fellow of the American Heart Association, the American College of Cardiology, the American College of Physicians, and the International Academy of Cardiovascular Sciences. He served as President of the Society for Heart and Vascular Metabolism 2006 to 2009. Dr. Taegtmeyer is board certified by the ABIM in Internal Medicine and Cardiovascular Diseases. He has supervised 12 graduate students and 16 postdoctoral fellows, and he has mentored 15 medical or surgical residents on research rotations as well as 43 summer students. Many of his students hold academic appointments in the US (Yale, UCLA, UCSD, Baylor College of Medicine, University of Texas Medical Branch, the University of Alabama at Birmingham, and McGovern Medical School at UTHealth and in Germany.

Dr. Taegtmeyer was a full member of the NIH Metabolism Study Section from 1989 to 1993 and has since served as an ad hoc member of various NIH study sections on a yearly basis. In 2005 the Director of the NHLBI named Dr. Taegtmeyer to the NIH Protocol Review Committee for the IMMEDIATE Trial. In 2006 he was named to the NHLBI Data Safety Monitoring Board for the IMMEDIATE Trial. He serves on the Scientific Advisory Committee of the University Clinical Research Center since 1995, and on the MacDonald Fund Research Committee since 2007.

Vasanthi Jayaraman, Ph.D.
Department of Biochemistry & Molecular Biology
“Neuronal signaling at the single molecule level”

Dr. Jayaramn earned a Ph.D. from Princeton University under her mentor Thomas Spiro conducting spectroscopic investigations of hemoglobin and continued post-doctoral studies at Cornell University in the laboratory of George Hess using rapid kinetic electrophysiological measurements to study ligand-gated ion channels.

She joined McGovern Medical School in 2002 where she is currently Professor in the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology.  She is the founding chair of the Women’s Faculty Forum and has received numerous honors and awards including the UT System Regents Outstanding Teaching Award and the McGovern Scholar Award.

Currently, her laboratory is interested in gaining an understanding of agonist-mediated activation and desensitization of this receptor by determining the structural changes in the protein induced by agonist binding. This is achieved by using various cutting edge spectroscopic methods that allow the characterization of the dynamic state structure of the proteins at a significantly higher resolution than X-ray structures. The structural changes thus determined are correlated with the functional consequences as measured by electrophysiological measurements. These investigations provide a detailed understanding of the agonist controlled function of the glutamate receptors and hence aid in the rational design of drugs targeting this group of important proteins that are involved in diverse neuropathologies, such as epilepsy and ischemia.


Balveen Kaur, Ph.D.
Professor and John P. and Katherine G. McGovern Endowed Chair
Vice Chair, Research
Department of Neurosurgery
“Oncolytic viral therapy for cancer”

Dr. Kaur is an internationally recognized investigator with expertise in basic and translational, neuro-oncology research involving many aspects of cancer biology, response and resistance to therapeutics.

Following the completion of her Ph.D. at Emory University in 1999 she subsequently pursued a research post-doctoral fellowship in the laboratory of Dr. Erwin Van Meir in understanding basic mechanisms of hypoxia-elicited changes in gene expression and function and implications for brain tumors.  She was recruited to the Ohio State University in 2005 as a junior faculty, where she was promoted to the level of a tenured Professor in 2013, and then recruited to University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston in 2017.

At UTHealth she is a tenured Professor and vice-chair in the Department of Neurosurgery. She is also honored to be the recipient of John P. and Kathrine G. McGovern endowed chair within the College of Medicine.

Her research program has made seminal discoveries that have identified novel experimental approaches to treat brain tumors. Dr. Kaur has published more than 100 peer-reviewed contributions to biomedical journals. Her H-index is 40 and her research work has been cited more than 5000 times.  She has been continuously funded by the NIH with two or more concurrent R01 (or R01 equivalent) level grants since 2008.  She is currently listed as PI/Project leader or collaborator on five NIH R01s, one P01 and several industrial contracts. She has served on multiple national/international study sections and on editorial boards of numerous scientific journals. She has a track record of mentoring successful NIH funded students and postdoctoral fellows who are now independent investigators in academia and industry.