Eric Olson is professor and chair of the Department of Molecular Biology at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas, where he also is the Robert A. Welch Distinguished Chair in Science, the Annie and Willie Nelson Professor, and the Pogue Distinguished Chair in Research on Cardiac Birth Defects.
Eric Olson and his colleagues discovered many of the key transcription factors and mechanisms responsible for heart development and disease. He also unveiled the calcium-dependent signaling pathways and epigenetic mechanisms that drive pathological cardiac hypertrophy and heart failure. Most recently, Olson identified a cohort of microRNAs that control proliferation, differentiation and survival of cardiomyocytes, maturation of the cardiac chambers, and blood vessel formation. Olson's discoveries at the interface of developmental biology and medicine have profoundly influenced our understanding of the development and dysfunction of the cardiovascular system, providing new concepts in the quest for cardiovascular therapeutics.
Dr. Olson attended Wake Forest University, receiving a B.A. in chemistry and biology, a Ph.D. in biochemistry, and an honorary doctorate. After postdoctoral training at Washington University School of Medicine, he began his scientific career at MD Anderson Cancer Center. In 1995, he founded the Department of Molecular Biology at UT Southwestern.
Known as a dedicated mentor, Eric Olson has trained an impressive succession of students and postdoctoral fellows, many of whom are emerging as the next generation of leaders in cardiovascular medicine. He has published over 500 scientific articles and is among the most highly cited scientists in biology with over 50,000 citations in the literature.
Eric Olson is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the U.S. National Academy of Sciences, and its Institute of Medicine. His awards include the Basic Research Prize, Research Achievement Award, and Founding Distinguished Scientist Award from the American Heart Association, the Pasarow Medical Research Award in Cardiovascular Disease, and the Pollin Prize in Pediatric Research. In 2009, the French Academy of Science awarded Dr. Olson the Fondation Lefoulon-Delalande Grand Prize.
Dr. Olson is also an entrepreneur and has co-founded three biotechnology companies dedicated to developing novel therapeutics for heart muscle disease. In his spare time, he plays guitar and harmonica with the Transactivators, a rock band inspired by the Texas icon, Willie Nelson, who established the professorship that Olson holds.