Mick Hitchcock, Ph.D. Endowed Chair in Medical Biochemistry established

Peter L. Jones, Ph.D. welcomed at reception

Peter and Takako Jones with University leadership.

From left, University of Nevada, Reno Foundation Trustee Mick Hitchcock, Ph.D.; University of Nevada, Reno Vice President and Provost Kevin Carman, Ph.D.; Takako Jones, Ph.D.; Peter L. Jones, Ph.D.; and Dean of the University of Nevada, Reno School of Medicine Thomas L. Schwenk, M.D. Photo by Teresa Danna-Douglas.

University of Nevada, Reno Foundation Trustee Mick Hitchcock, Ph.D. recently established the Mick Hitchcock, Ph.D. Endowed Chair in Medical Biochemistry at the University of Nevada, Reno School of Medicine, which formally welcomed the inaugural chair, Peter L. Jones, Ph.D., on March 6.

Attended by more than 60 faculty, staff, students, friends, donors, Board of Regents and University leaders at the Joe Crowley Student Union, the lecture and reception feted Jones and his lab as a significant addition to the research portfolio of UNR Med and the University of Nevada, Reno.

Jones, who comes to Nevada with his wife and co-principal investigator, Takako, a research associate professor, bring their research lab to the Department of Pharmacology. The primary research focus of the Jones Lab is on facioscapulohumeral muscular dystrophy, or FSHD, the most prevalent muscular dystrophy that affects men, women, children and adults.

According to the Jones Lab website, there are both genetic and epigenetic aspects that correlate with the highly variable levels of this disease's severity and progression. Currently, there is no cure and no treatments.

The lab is developing novel therapeutics for FSHD including small molecule inhibition, ncRNAs and CRISPR-based approaches. In addition, the Jones' use FSHD as a model to investigate epigenetic mechanisms of gene regulation.

At the lecture held prior to the reception, Hitchcock said he provided for the establishment of this chair because of his early life experiences of breaking things down in order to put them back together.

"I built my career in biochemistry and it seems fitting to sponsor future endeavors in science to give back to the roots of what I believe has been my success," he said explaining his motivation, prior to introducing Jones.

In his opening remarks, Jones said that his team "will make UNR Med proud" and he expects to really thrive on campus. "All we need to get this research to the clinic is right here at UNR Med."

He noted the ongoing collaboration between his lab and Dean Burkin, Ph.D., professor of pharmacology, whose research into Duchenne muscular dystrophy has generated significant scientific findings and led to the development of several novel potential therapeutics.

As a husband and wife principal investigative team, the Jones Lab combines her expertise in molecular developmental biology and cell biology with his expertise in epigenetics, gene regulation and biochemistry to address questions from multiple angles.

"We are particularly interested in myogenic gene regulation and epigenetic processes that occur during development and disease. We use many different model systems, having published work using C. elegans, Drosophila, honeybees and frogs, as well as human, mouse and insect cell culture," he explained.

"We are currently developing and characterizing several new and novel FSHD-like mouse models for developmental studies and to serve as tools for preclinical testing of potential FSHD therapeutics."

Jones has been investigating epigenetic mechanisms of gene regulation for most of his career with the last 14 years being focused on pathogenic mechanisms in FSHD.

As an undergraduate, his research project investigating ice-nucleating active bacteria turned his interests from medical school to a career in biomedical research. He earned his doctorate with Dr. Jeremy Boss at Emory University, working on gene regulation by primary immune response cytokines before completing his post-doctoral fellowship at the NIH, where he expanded his training into biochemistry and developmental biology with an emphasis on epigenetics, DNA methylation and chromatin remodeling.

Peter started his lab in 2001 at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and teamed up with Takako in 2008. From there they transitioned to the Boston Biomedical Research Institute and then to the University of Massachusetts Medical School before coming to UNR Med in 2017.


Contact

Julie Ardito
Senior Director, Advancement & Engagement
Office: (775) 784-6006
jardito@med.unr.edu

The University of Nevada, Reno School of Medicine is a research-intensive, community-based, statewide medical school that has served Nevada for more than 47 years as its first public medical school. Our vision is a healthy Nevada, supported by our mission: establishing excellence in medical education, medical care, research and community engagement, while committing to a culture of respect, compassion and inclusion. Through targeted growth and investment in research, clinical services, education and outreach, we are a resource for improving health care regionally and across the country. For more information, visit: med.unr.edu.