210 Pittsboro Street
Campus Box 6210
Chapel Hill, NC 27599-6210

T 919-962-2091
F 919-962-2279

News Briefs

For immediate use

July 13, 2006 -- No. 343


Geneticist Mohlke named Pew Scholar, becomes
third UNC researcher in as many years so honored

Dr. Karen Mohlke, assistant professor of genetics in UNC's School of Medicine, is one of 15 scientists selected nationwide as a 2006 Pew Scholar in Biomedical Sciences. This is the third consecutive year a UNC faculty researcher has earned a Pew.

Mohlke will receive $240,000 over four years to support her research in type 2 diabetes genetics at the Carolina Center for Genome Sciences. Her long-term goals are to identify genes that influence type 2 diabetes susceptibility and to understand their effects on biological processes.

Type 2 diabetes - formerly non-insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus or NIDDM - is a complex metabolic disorder with a strong genetic component. Type 2 diabetes is a major cause of morbidity and mortality worldwide. Identification and characterization of genes affecting susceptibility to the disease would substantially impact public health by providing biological and clinical data about development of this trait. Validated genes would provide insight into the molecular pathways and processes affecting type 2 diabetes susceptibility and lead to new studies of genetic interactions with environmental factors.

Mohlke received her Ph.D. in human genetics at the University of Michigan in 1996. She worked six years with the Finland-United States Investigation of NIDDM Genetics (FUSION) study, which aims to identify genes that influence susceptibility to type 2 diabetes and related traits.

Mohlke's immediate predecessors as Pew honorees are: Dr. Franck Polleux, a 2005 Pew Scholar from the UNC Neuroscience Center and the department of pharmacology; and Dr. Brian Strahl, a 2004 Pew Scholar and researcher in the departments of biochemistry and biophysics. Other Pew alumni at UNC are: Dr. John Sondek, in pharmacology; Dr. Robert Goldstein, in biology; Dr. Patrick Brennwald, in cell and developmental biology; Dr. Yue Xiong, in biochemistry and biophysics; and Dr. Terry Magnuson, chair of the genetics department and director of the genome sciences center.

Since 1985, the Pew Scholars program has provided support to investigators in the early stages of their careers who show "outstanding promise in the basic and clinical sciences." It is funded through a grant from The Pew Charitable Trusts.


Offenbacher to receive American Dental Association
award for significant contributions to clinical dentistry

Dr. Steven Offenbacher, the OraPharma distinguished professor of periodontal medicine at UNC's School of Dentistry, has been named the recipient of the 2006 Norton M. Ross Award for Excellence in Clinical Research.

The Ross Award, sponsored by the American Dental Association through the ADA Foundation, recognizes scientists whose clinical research has had a meaningful influence on clinical dentistry. Pfizer Consumer Healthcare provides support for the award. Offenbacher will receive the award, and an accompanying plaque and $5,000, in August.

Offenbacher, also director of the Center for Oral and Systemic Diseases, based in the UNC-Chapel Hill School of Dentistry, has been a member of the dental school's faculty since 1990. He is a past recipient of the International Association for Dental Research's Basic Research in Periodontal Disease Award and is the first dental scientist to receive the national Healthy Mothers, Healthy Babies' Special Impact Award.

His research focuses on several areas, including the relationship of periodontal disease to premature birth, heart disease, diabetes and atherosclerosis. Offenbacher is the principal investigator on a five-year, multi-site study focusing on whether or not tooth cleaning performed on expectant mothers decreases the rate of preterm deliveries at fewer than 37 weeks and also what effects maternal tooth cleaning may have on the birth weight of infants born at fewer than 37 weeks gestation.

The Ross Award is given in memory of dentist and pharmacologist Dr. Norton M. Ross, who contributed significantly to oral medicine and dental clinical research.

- 30 -

Photo URLs:

School of Medicine contact: Les Lang, (919) 843-9687 or
School of Dentistry contact: Deb Saine, (919) 966-2731 or