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David M. Ornitz, PhD, MD

David M. Ornitz, PhD, MD, Alumni Endowed Professor of Developmental Biology, is honored for his seminal discoveries in the field of Fibroblast Growth Factor (FGF) signaling and the functions of FGFs in embryonic development and adult tissues.

Using mouse models, Ornitz has contributed seminal discoveries explaining the role of FGFs and their receptors (FGFRs) in development of the heart, vasculature, lungs, skeleton, inner ear, nervous system and other tissues and organ systems. He and colleagues have used that knowledge to understand various mechanisms related to tissue regeneration and disease, including regulating tissue homeostasis, tissue repair in response to injury, and cancer.

The Ornitz laboratory is currently investigating FGF signaling mechanisms that regulate lung development and lung cancer, bone development, growth and homeostasis, cochlear development and regeneration and neuronal excitability. His laboratory is also building on this developmental knowledge to understand the mechanisms used by FGFs and FGFRs to prevent cellular and organ damage resulting from cardiac ischemia-reperfusion injury, lung injury and skeletal injury and aging.

Ornitz received his bachelor’s degree from the University of California, Davis, in 1981 and his doctoral and medical degrees from the University of Washington in 1987 and 1988, respectively. He then completed a postdoctoral fellowship in the Department of Genetics at Harvard Medical School and joined the faculty at Washington University in 1992.

Originally recruited into the Department of Molecular Biology and Pharmacology, Ornitz played a key role in that department’s transition to the Department of Developmental Biology, serving as interim head over the transition for five years. He has published more than 160 scientific papers and 26 book chapters and reviews. Ornitz has mentored 10 undergraduate students, 17 PhD and MD/PhD students, and 24 postdoctoral fellows and physician-scientists.

Published: 02/20/2015