Baylor College of Medicine

Dr. Hugo J. Bellen (right) talks with a colleague in a lab.

Dr. Hugo Bellen elected to National Academy of Sciences

Molly Chiu


Houston, TX -

Dr. Hugo J. Bellen, professor of molecular and human genetics and neuroscience at Baylor College of Medicine and Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator, has been elected to the prestigious National Academy of Sciences   in recognition of distinguished and continuing achievements in original research.

He is one of 120 members elected this year to the National Academy of Sciences, a private, nonprofit institution that was established under a congressional charter signed by President Abraham Lincoln in 1863. Members are elected by their peers for their outstanding contributions to research. The group provides science, engineering and health policy advice to the federal government and other organizations.

“Dr. Bellen has long been a leader in research here at Baylor, not only through his own innovative work and discoveries, but also through his teaching and guidance of new scientists,” said Dr. Paul Klotman, president, CEO and executive dean of Baylor College of Medicine. “He is joining a list of other great researchers here at Baylor who have also been given the distinguished honor of being named to the National Academy of Sciences, and we look forward to his continued advancements and contributions to science and medicine.”

In addition, Bellen is among 276 artists, scholars, scientists and leaders in the public, non-profit, and private sectors elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences for the class of 2020.

Founded in 1780, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences was created to honor exceptionally accomplished individuals and engage them in advancing the public good. Today, the Academy continues to dedicate itself to recognizing excellence in a broad array of fields.

“Dr. Bellen’s groundbreaking research is addressing issues related to both rare and common neurological diseases facing humans today,” Klotman said “The fact that he has been elected to not one, but two esteemed national academies this year proves that he is a leader in the field. We are proud to call him a leader, mentor and member of the Baylor community.”

“I am so thrilled Hugo is being recognized for these remarkable achievements,” said Dr. Mary Dickinson, vice president and dean of research at Baylor. “For more than 30 years he has been an outstanding educator, researcher and role model.”

Bellen is one of the world's premier researchers in Drosophila, or fruit fly, genetics. His group has made major contributions to the understanding of nervous system development, synaptic transmission and mechanisms of neurodegeneration. As the head of the Drosophila Gene Disruption Project, his laboratory has developed numerous sophisticated genetic tools and generated tens of thousands of reagents that have transformed Drosophila biology. His reagents are used by nearly every fly biologist.

Bellen's current research focuses on the discovery of new rare human disease genes and elucidating the pathogenic mechanisms of neurodevelopmental and neurodegenerative diseases using fruit flies, in collaboration with human geneticists worldwide. His lab is the home of the Model Organism Screening Center for the Undiagnosed Diseases Network of the National Institutes of Health. In the past few years, he has made major strides in solving key problems related to nearly 25 rare human diseases, and these studies also have revealed probing knowledge about Friedreich ataxia, Alzheimer disease, Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis and Parkinson disease.

“I would like to express my deepest gratitude to many,” said Bellen, the March of Dimes Chair at Baylor College of Medicine. “I’m extremely indebted to my graduate students and postdoctoral fellows whose accomplishments through their creative thinking, motivation and scientific acumen have made many of our dreams come true. Second, I would like to extend my sincere thanks to my colleagues who have created a collaborative and productive no-nonsense environment at Baylor College of Medicine and the Neurological Research Institute. Lastly, the tireless intellectual and moral support of my spouse, Catherine, combined with her exquisite intuitive, analytical and critical thinking have been invaluable in shaping my career."

Baylor College of Medicine’s National Academy of Sciences members include Dr. Arthur Beaudet, Dr. C. Thomas Caskey, Dr. Mary K. Estes, Dr. Bert W. O’Malley, Dr. Martin M. Matzuk, Dr. David Moore and Dr. Huda Y. Zoghbi. See a full list of the 2020 class of the National Academy of Sciences.

Current American Academy of Arts and Sciences members represent today’s innovative thinkers in every field and profession, including more than 250 Nobel and Pulitzer Prize winners. Baylor College of Medicine’s American Academy of Arts and Sciences members include Dr. James Lupski, Dr. Bert W. O’Malley, Dr. JoAnne Richards, Dr. Peter J. Hotez and Dr. Huda Y. Zoghbi. See a full list of this year’s new members.

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