2011 Distinguished Scientists

2011 Distinguished

The American Heart Association is pleased to announce the selection of the 2011 Distinguished Scientists.  Each year this distinction is proudly bestowed upon prominent AHA members whose work has advanced the understanding and management of cardiovascular disease and stroke.

2011 Distinguished Scientists

robert-MahleySenior Investigator and President Emeritus, Gladstone Institutes
Professor, Pathology and Medicine
University of California
San Francisco, Calif. 

Dr. Robert W. Mahley is a senior investigator at both the Gladstone Institute of Cardiovascular Disease and the Gladstone Institute of Neurological Disease and president-emeritus of the Gladstone Institutes. Dr. Mahley is also a professor of pathology and medicine at the University of California, San Francisco. As president, Dr. Mahley oversaw Gladstone’s establishment and its growth to include three institutes. He recently developed the Gladstone Center for Translational Research to facilitate the movement of some aspects of Gladstone’s basic research into developmental targets. In 2010, after 30 years as president, he stepped down to more actively pursue his research.

Dr. Mahley is an internationally known expert on heart disease, cholesterol metabolism and, more recently, Alzheimer’s disease. He studies plasma lipoproteins and particularly apolipoprotein (apo) E, the major genetic risk factor for Alzheimer’s disease. His seminal research has defined apoE’s critical role in cholesterol homeostasis and atherosclerosis. His Turkish Heart Study shed light on the genetics of low HDL-C. He has also made fundamental contributions to understanding the role of apoE in the nervous system, specifically in nerve injury and regeneration and in the remodeling of neurites on neuronal cells. These findings laid the groundwork for the explosion of research linking apoE4, a variant of apoE, to the pathogenesis of Alzheimer’s disease and neurodegeneration.

In 1971, Dr. Mahley joined the staff of the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute at the National Institutes of Health, and in 1975 became head of the Comparative Atherosclerosis and Arterial Metabolism Section. Four years later, he was recruited to create the Gladstone Institutes. Dr. Mahley is a member of many scientific and professional societies, including the American Heart Association, the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, the American Society for Clinical Investigation, the Association of American Physicians, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and the Society for Neuroscience. In addition, he serves on the editorial boards of several scientific journals.

Dr. Mahley is a member of the National Academy of Sciences, the Institute of Medicine, and the American Academy of Arts & Sciences. He recently received the Builders of Science Award from Research!America for his leadership as Gladstone’s founding director and president, guiding its growth to become one of the world’s foremost independent research institutes.

After earning a bachelor’s degree from Maryville College, Maryville, Tennessee, in 1963, Dr. Mahley completed both an MD and a PhD at Vanderbilt University in 1970. The following year he did a pathology internship at Vanderbilt.




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