The recruits

The recruits

UF Health makes its first hires as part of UF Rising initiative

Big data number cruncher

William Hogan

William R. Hogan

While scientists and clinicians work each day on discoveries that could unlock treatments and cures for diseases, much stands in the way between their work and patients in clinics and hospitals. Often, that roadblock takes the form of the inability to crunch large amounts of data.

As part of UF’s effort to translate medical discoveries into tangible benefits for patients more quickly and effectively, William R. Hogan, M.S., M.D., has joined the College of Medicine’s department of health outcomes and policy and will serve as director of biomedical informatics at UF’s Clinical and Translational Science Institute. Hogan will lead the development of a medical informatics training program and support services for researchers who need assistance with managing and analyzing large medical data sets.

“Dr. Hogan brings invaluable expertise to the table. Biomedical informatics is critical for a wide range of clinical and population health issues,” said Betsy Shenkman, Ph.D., chair of the department of health outcomes and policy. “His vision for the future of biomedical informatics research and education is matched with his dedication to improving patient outcomes, which makes him a perfect fit for not only our department and the CTSI, but also UF as a whole.”

Hogan’s work will fall under the larger umbrella of the UF Informatics Institute, which was created to use the unprecedented amount of digital data being generated each day to solve some of the world’s pressing problems, such as designing the next generation of transportation, forecasting crop performance and predicting disease. — Elizabeth Hillaker Downs

New treatments for muscular diseases

H. Lee Sweeney, second from left

H. Lee Sweeney, second from left

As part of its goal to become a world leader in the development of therapies for muscular conditions and cancer, UF has hired a world-renowned expert on neuromuscular diseases and pioneer in muscular dystrophy research.

H. Lee Sweeney, Ph.D., the William Maul Measey professor of physiology at the University of Pennsylvania and director of the Penn Center for Orphan Disease Research and Therapy, will join UF full time on July 1, 2015 as The Thomas H. Maren, M.D., eminent scholar chair in pharmacology and therapeutics in the UF College of Medicine.

In addition to serving as a leading scholar, Sweeney will develop an institute specifically devoted to the study of muscles, pulling together resources and expertise already housed at UF.

Together with his colleagues, Sweeney developed the first drug approved in Europe for the treatment of Duchenne muscular dystrophy. The most common form of muscular dystrophy in children, Duchenne muscular dystrophy results in muscle deterioration and ultimately death in those born with it. This discovery earned Sweeney the Hamdan Award for Medical Research Excellence.

“Lee is studying muscular dystrophy at its most basic level and is truly committed to making strong headway toward therapeutic approaches,” said Jeffrey Martens, Ph.D., chair of the College of Medicine department of pharmacology and therapeutics. “He is approaching the treatment of muscular dystrophy in any and every way he can. I am really convinced he is going to move treatment of this disease forward in a significant way.”

In addition, some of the scientific concepts derived from his research on muscles relate to cancer cells, and Sweeney plans to use this knowledge to develop new techniques to fight cancer cells as well.

“Much of my most basic research focuses on myosin motors that move cargoes inside of cells and move the muscles of the body,” Sweeney said. “Cancer cells depend on these myosin motors to grow rapidly and move. I am now applying my knowledge of how these myosin motors work to cripple cancer cells.” — April Frawley